Sunday, January 15, 2012

Super Easy Steamed Nian Gao (tikoy)(简易年糕)

It is auspicious for Chinese to eat nian gao/sticky rice cake during Chinese New Year as 年糕 symbolizes "Nian Nian Gao Sheng" 年年高升 which is wishing you to have a higher position in your job and also to increase your prosperity year after year.  Sticky rice also means family unity and togetherness.  So, it is good luck to eat nian gao. 

After attempting a steamed nian gao last year that was kinda hard.  I wanted to create a recipe that is easier to do and softer.  I saw a video on YouTube and see how the traditional nian gao was made and it took 12 hours.  The long hours were needed to caramelized the white sugar to make the nian gao.  I don't want to spend 12 hours in my kitchen and keep adding water to my steamer.  So, this recipe was created.  I used the American brown sugar to cut out the first step in my previous recipe, as it dissolved easily in hot water.  All you need is a bowl and a whisk and a weight machine, then just mix all three ingredients in the same bowl and prepare to steam.  This recipe is especially shared by me to overseas moms who want to pass down the Chinese New Year tradition to your kids and want short-cut!

As you can see, I turned it over to cool on my wire rack.  You definitely learned from your mistake!  Next time I would turn it over and cool on a flat surface so that it would be smooth.  I also decorated the middle with a half red date (I have no intention of eating the red date so I didn't bother to cook it, if you wish to eat it, you will have to place the red date in when it was half cooked, about 30-40 minutes into the steaming).  As I didn't lined my bowl with banana leaves or parchment paper (I just sprayed it with oil), I was afraid that if I left it in the bowl to cool, it might harden and stick to the bowl.  So, I turned it out to cool when it was out of the steamer.   You can also choose to line your bowl with parchment paper at the bottom and just oil the sides of the bowl.

Verdict:   I am very happy with this as the nian gao was really soft on the first day.  My girls and I tried some on the 2nd day and it was still soft and sticky!  The above nian gao had been harden for three days at room temperature and as you can see, it was no longer soft and sticky (This is the time for pan-frying).  Or you can just heat it up in the microwave for 20-25 seconds (900 watts) or 15 seconds (1100 watts), and it would turn right back to soft and sticky!  It might not be as fragrant as the caramelized sugar version that was steamed for 12 hours but I am happy with this super easy version.  The fragrant of this came from the American brown sugar that you used.  I will stick to this recipe from now on, all of you are welcome to try this and feedback to me!  Go, go, go make!

With that said, I am sharing this easy nian gao with Aspiring Bakers #15: Auspicious Dishes for CNY hosted by Wen's Delight.  Go check out the roundup on Feb 1st.  :-)

~Yield 2 small bowls like the above or one 9" pie plate.


  • 400g glutinous rice flour
  • 300g brown sugar, the American kind (light or dark, I used light here)
  • 400ml water
  • Red date/jujube for decoration (wash and cut into half)


1.  Measure the brown sugar in a bowl.  Add 200ml hot water, whisk until sugar dissolved.  Add 200ml water, whisk well.

2.  Add in glutinous rice flour.  Slowly whisk until a smooth batter formed.

3.  Grease your bowls or ramekins or any container you desired.  Pour the batter in.

4.  Steam in high heat for 1 hour or less.  Test with a toothpick to make sure.  40 minutes through steaming, decorate the middle with a half red date/jujube.  Once out of the steamer, take it out and cool on a plate.  Once cooled, keep in air-tight container or wrap it with cling wrap and refrigerate.  If you want to eat it right away, you can keep it at room temperature for few days.


Yeou-Lee (Brisbane) said...

Thanks for sharing. I want to try this out this weekend :) have to go and buy the glutinous flour and the brown sugar.

daphne said...

Indeed it looks really simple!! This year, we are so busy with house and other things that we have no chance to prepare for CNY. But I still enjoy reading this so that I can bookmark it for next CNY!

Anh said...

this is not part of our tradition, but I love to try it!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Thanks for sharing this simple and easy Nian Gao..But this year my mom is making this for me, hehehe..

Nava K said...

I have heard of sticky rice and the significance of it for CNY but this recipe of yours is new discovery. Having said that, I will probably will try making a small portion first and see the reaction of family first.

Unknown said...

Your version of nian gao looks really simple and great! Thanks for sharing.

Noob Cook said...

bravo for making your own nian gao... looks good. I like the fuss-free way too.

storm said...

What's the difference between american brown sugar and normal brown sugar we get in msia?

do you think we can substitute with gula melaka?

or can we caramelised the sugar then add the 200ml water? (caramel nian go?!)

huat ar! :)

tigerfish said...

The whole deal of nian gao still sounds difficult to me as it is considered baking, right? :p

I like to have nian gao pan-fried the next day, sometimes with egg.

Little Corner of Mine said...

You are welcome Yeou-Lee! I want more people to make it. :)

Great Daphne!

Do try Anh!

So nice Sonia, has your mom to make it for you. :)

Nava, you can half the recipe, not much though. We can finish it in a day if I don't ration. :D

You're welcome Vivian!

Thanks noobcook.

Storm, I put down American brown sugar because that's what I used. I have no idea what Malaysian brown sugar looks like. Yes you can use gula melaka but then you have to melt it in a saucepan first. Same with caramelizing the sugar.

NO No Tigerfish, this is not baked, it's steamed!! Just mix with a whisk and steam. You got to try this, so easy leh!

Belinda @zomppa said...

Nicely done! This is so authentic and beautiful!

Retno Prihadana said...

I used to eat this when I was a little girl :). Now, I know how to make it, TFS Ching

Wen said...

Thanks for sharing! I never know that nian gao can be done so easily! Love simple recipe!

Unknown said...

I am all about short cuts, so I am very grateful for this recipe! I'll try using Indonesia palm sugar maybe...thankssss

Anonymous said...

You've mentioned that you've tried making one before and it came out hard. Sadly, I followed a different recipe before I saw yours and my tikoy came out hard. Is there a way to save it or I just have to throw it away? Thanks

Little Corner of Mine said...

Anon, try microwave it for 30 seconds and see if it turned soft? If yes, great! If not, you can still eat it by wrapping it with springroll wrapper and then deep-fry it like what I did here with my hard tikoy. You can also pan-fry it with beaten eggs and see whether it turns softer. If after all these, it is still hard, then it's a failure and probably should throw it away. Why eat it if it's inedible right?

Anonymous said...

Tks for sharing. I perfect it on my first attempt.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe. I halved it, and used dark brown sugar. My mum said it tasted better than some traditionally made ones. :))

Little Corner of Mine said...

Thanks for the feedback both anons! :) Glad u liked it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe and simple instructions.
I had always taken nien go for granted that my mom would make every CNY. However recently she has been taken with illness. Your recipe allowed me to surprise her and maintain a family tradition of home made nien go every CNY.

Little Corner of Mine said...

You're so welcome Anon. Thanks for sharing your story and feedback. I am happy to hear that you can maintain your family tradition through this nian gao. Hope your mom is feeling better.

Eva @ Eva Bakes said...

Thank you for posting this recipe! I made a half recipe this weekend for my family of 3 to enjoy during Chinese New Year. I loved the taste and texture - it was reminiscent of the ones I've had as a child. And extra bonus points that I didn't have to pay fry this! I've linked back to you here:

Little Corner of Mine said...

Eva, thanks for linking back to me. So glad you liked it. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi. Since its almost CNY I have revisited your page again on Nien Go. Just want to say Thanks again for this increadibly easy recipe.
BTW, the homecare lady taking care of my mom saw me making nien go and said that I have to make it for 3 straight years or "pantang". well she didnt exactly say pantang as she's from HKG but is there such a pantang?

Little Corner of Mine said...

Well Anon, if there is such a "pantang", I have never heard of it as well. ;P