How to make chinese new year cake nian gao (sticky rice cake)


Chinese New Year Cakes

*Original Content, if reproduce, please indicate the source and this post’s link.*

There is a very old tale about the origin of the Chinese New Year Cake, consumed by people during the Chinese New Year. In ancient times, there was a monster called “Nian” (literally meaning “year”). Throughout the whole year, it was living in the woods on the mountains. Whenever it was hungry, it fed itself with other animals. However, when the severe winter came, many animals had to hide themselves. “Nian” became so starved that it had to climb down from the mountains to eat human beings to survive. People suffered so much. Since then, there was a clever tribe called “Gao Family Tribe”, which prepared a lot of food to feed the monster whenever the severe winter came. They rolled the food into different bars and cut them into pieces before throwing them out of their houses. Then, everyone hid in the house. When “Nian” came and found no human beings, it had to eat something anyway. In turn, “Nian” ate the food made by the villagers, and went back to its mountain after stuffing itself. When it was gone, the villagers all gathered to celebrate, as they had once again escaped from “Nian”. They were at ease and could prepare to farm for the next Spring. Year after year, such a method of avoiding the harm of “Nian” has been inherited and passed down to later generations. As the grain bar was invented by the Gao family, people then related “Nian” (the monster) with “Gao” (people who invented the grain bar to avoid the monster), finally giving birth to the food “Nian Gao” (i.e. Chinese New Year Cakes | Chinese Sweet sticky rice cake).

Eating Chinese New Year Cakes(Chinese sweet sticky rice cake | 年糕) is one of the traditional customs of the Chinese. Sticky rice cake is one of the must-have holiday foods for the Lunar New Year. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, people start eating “Nian Gao”, it means that they’re aiming at “reaching highness every year”.
Today, we are going to make two different types of rice cakes, one is the traditional steamed rice cake, and the other is the oven-baked rice cake.

Steamed Rice Cake


Glutinous rice flour: 200g
Milk: 180g
Brown sugar: 100g
Red beans: 150g
Salt: 5g


1. Slightly wash the red beans and soak them in water overnight. (Or 6 to 9 hours)
2. After adding the red beans in water, boil them, then turn to low heat for about 5 minutes. Cover the lid and turn off the heat. When the temperature drops to being lukewarm, open the lid and cook until it is boiled, and turn to low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, cover the lid and turn off the fire until the temperature drops to a slight one. Repeat the same action for about 2-3 times until the red beans are soft but not broken.
3. Filter out the excess water, mix in sugar and salt, then cook over low heat until the brown sugar dissolves. When there is no more soup, you may turn off the fire. Cover the lid for several hours (or overnight) to let the sweetness absorbed into the red beans.
4. Heat the milk (without boiling), add the brown sugar until it’s fully melted, then let it cool down.
5. Add the glutinous rice flour to the cooled syrup and mix well to form a thick glutinous rice syrup.
6. Add the honey red beans (without excess water) into the glutinous rice syrup and mix gently. Do not use too much force so that you don’t crush the red beans.
7. Put a baking paper on the mold pad, and mix the evenly mixed glutinous rice paste onto the mold. Put it in a boiling steamer and steam it for about 40 minutes with a medium heat. (If you want to test whether the paste is cooked, you may test by inserting a bamboo stick. Pull out from the top to check whether any powder is stuck onto it.)
8. After steaming the rice cake, take it out and apply a little cooking oil to the surface to prevent drying.
9. Slice after it’s completely cooled.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

My Mum’s designs!

Chinese New Year cake, or Nin Gao (pronounced ‘neen go’) is eaten at Chinese New Year of course! It has always been a favourite with my family when growing up as a child, quick and easy to make, and super tasty.

If you haven’t tried it before, I think the texture will be something new to you.

It’s a steamed cake that is made a few days leading up to Chinese New Year, and then it can be stored in the fridge and eaten as and when you get the desire.

It is usually cut into slices about 1cm thick, coated in beaten egg and then lightly fried until soft.

Once cooked in egg, this is where you get another texture sensation.

First you get a crispy, crunchy texture from the egg coating the cake, then you get a sweet chewy, almost toffee texture once you start chewing.

Admittedly, it is not for anyone on a diet! There is a lot of sugar, and the use of glutinous rice flour also contributes to the calories, but as a celebration cake to be eaten once a year, I think indulgence is ok!

So here’s the recipe. I would be interested on your thoughts, if you’ve eaten it before, made it, what textures and flavours came to you.


1 1/2 cups or 200 g Glutinous rice flour sieved
1/2 cup or 50 g Rice flour sieved
2 bars brown sugar (about 118g)
3/4 cup or 210 ml hot water
1 egg beaten

You will need:
Bamboo steamer (14 cm diameter) Any conventional electric steamer also works but I like to use the bamboo one for the smells and flavour it gives during steaming.
Dish /bowl/cake tin (10-11 cm diameter)
Grease proof / wax paper to line the tin

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

1. Start your steamer to get it to a fast boil.

2. Line your dish / tin with grease proof paper and lightly brush a drop of oil on the top to prevent the cake from sticking to the paper.lined tin with grease proof

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

3. Put the brown sugar bars in a pan with the hot water and heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave until cool. I usually submerge the pan half deep in cold water to speed up the cooling process.

4. Add the flours into a mixing bowl and with a wooden spoon start adding the cooled sugar water and keep stirring until well combined. If the mixture gets too stiff to mix, add a drop of hot water to loosen it.mix glutinous rice flour and rice flour with sugared waterHow to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

5. Transfer mixture to the dish and place in the steamer.
How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

6. Steam for 50 minutes on high. Make sure the steamer does not run out of water.
How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Leave to cool. Then turn out and remove the greaseproof paper. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge until needed.How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

8. Slice into pieces about 1cm thick and coat in the beaten egg.

9. Put a drop of oil in a frying pan and place the cake slices in the pan. Turn when brown on one side. Once both sides are brown and feel soft, transfer to a plate, have a cup of Jasmine tea and enjoy!

Baked Nian Gao

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Classic Nian Gao is a steamed cake that does not contain eggs, milk or other ingredients typically found in a standard cake batter, Baked Nian Gao, on the other hand, is a good recipe for those who are uncomfortable with steaming and prefer a more “cake-like” cake batter.

The two main ingredients in Nian Gao — baked or steamed — are red azuki beans and glutinous rice flour, also called sticky rice flour. Both are available in Chinese/Asian supermarkets.​

Getting Everything Ready

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a paper towel to rub a small amount of oil over a 9 X 9-inch baking pan or spray the pan lightly with Pam. (Note: you can also use a deep-sided 9 X 13-inch baking dish).

Begin Mixing the Ingredients

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Mix everything but the beans with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Continue Mixing the Ingredients

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed. The batter should have a milkshake-like consistency.

Begin Baking the Batter

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Spread 1/2 to 3/4 of the batter on the bottom of the baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the batter is just beginning to set (about 10 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven.

Add the Red Beans

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Add the red azuki beans. Since the batter isn’t fully set, the beans will sink in a bit — this is fine. Don’t worry about trying to spread them out in an even layer over top.

Add the Rest of the Batter and Continue Baking

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Add the remaining batter over top of the beans. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes — the Baked Nian Gao is done when a chopstick or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You’re Done!

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Cut the cake into equal pieces (not too large, as it is rather heavy) and serve. Enjoy!

Published: January 30, 2016 Last Updated: September 24, 2020
By Judy 55 Comments

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

The familiar image of a New Year Sweet Rice Cake (红糖年糕), or nian gao, is a welcome sight during Chinese New Year. Nian gao 年糕(高) symbolizes progress, advancement, and growth. Every family inevitably buys or makes this for their Chinese New Year celebration, in the hopes of having a better year ahead. It’s also a popular gift to give when visiting family and friends during the holiday.

Just so you know, this Chinese New Year Sweet Rice Cake recipe is a bit non-traditional. Before you think harshly of me, allow me to explain.

I know all about the traditional sweet rice cake recipe–it takes three to four ingredients: sugar, water and rice flours. Feel free to follow the cooking instructions and make the traditional version using just those basic ingredients listed below. I know many people are looking for that taste from home or from their childhood.

But to me, I just feel that the traditional nian gao recipe is a bit too plain and could use some improvement, so I adapted some western baking elements to come up with this recipe, which I’m quite pleased with (or, dare I say, that I’m actually proud of!). The addition of ginger and orange zest really enhances the subtle flavor of the nian gao.

So this recipe is basically based on the traditional version, but has a bit of oomph! Many readers have asked for a Sweet Nian Gao recipe over the past year, and I hope you’ll like my version of this Chinese New Year staple. I think it’s quite lovely!

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

A few things you might want to know about nian gao:

1) If you like Chinese dried dates, feel free to remove the pits from a handful of them, chop them up, and mix them in with the batter. The dates would be a great addition.

2) If you want to give these away as gifts, use a foil pan!

3) You can eat the rice cake once it’s steamed…just remember that it’s very sticky and gooey when it’s hot. I think the best way to enjoy this Sweet Rice Cake is wait for it to cool, slice it, and then pan fry both sides with a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat.

4) You can refrigerate or freeze Sweet Rice Cakes. They will harden, but they reheat nicely in a pan when sliced (as described above).

5) This recipe makes two 8” rice cakes.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Nian Gao Recipe Instructions

Prepare two 8-inch round baking pans by brushing the insides with vegetable oil.

Add 2 cups of water and the ginger to a medium-sized pot, bring it a boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes over low to medium heat with the lid covered. Turn off the heat, and stir in the Chinese Brown Rock Sugar and allspice until the sugar is dissolved completely. Remove the ginger slices. Now add 1 1/2 cups of cold water to cool down the mixture so its warm, not hot.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the glutinous rice flour and rice flour together, and then slowly add in the sugar water mixture.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Stir thoroughly until the batter is smooth (without any lumps). Now stir in the vanilla extract, molasses, orange zest, and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil until thoroughly combined.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

The resulting batter should have a consistency similar to condensed milk. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more water a couple tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Pour the batter evenly into two foil pans. Gently tap the pans against your countertop to get rid of air bubbles. Top each pan with three decorative dried dates in the center, if using.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Put both pans in a double-decker bamboo steamer and steam for about 1 hour on high heat (the water should be boiling, but should NOT be bubbling high enough to touch the foil pans). You might need to add hot water into the steamer midway to avoid having the water dry up and burn your bamboo steamers.

After 1 hour, poke a toothpick into the rice cake. It’s done if the toothpick comes out clean–just like a regular cake! Regarding steaming techniques, for this recipe and in general, it doesn’t matter what type of vessel you use. The core goal here is to use steam to cook the food, which means it’s important that the steam doesn’t escape.

For example, if you use bamboo steamer, you will also need a pot that fits the bamboo steamer perfectly so there is no visible steam escaping. If you don’t have a pot that fits the bamboo steamer, you will need to put the bamboo steamer inside a much larger pot with a lid and set the bamboo steamer on a rack above the water. Whatever you decide to use, with the correct set up, you should not see steam escaping!

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Again, I like to make these ahead of Chinese New Year. When we’re ready to enjoy, I slice the cooled cake into pieces and pan-fry the pieces on all sides in a cast iron pan with a little canola oil.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Enjoy this sweet Nian Gao for Chinese New year!

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

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Make this traditional Chinese New Year Food – Nian Gao Recipe (Chinese New Year Cake) 年糕! Bless your family & friends with this Sticky Sweet Chinese Rice Cake gift that symbolizes prosperity.

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is the biggest celebration of the year in the Chinese community. It’s like Christmas to us! 😀

It’s a time to celebrate the hard work, a time for families to reunite, a time to feast, a time to give thanks and rejoice.

Many would make every effort to return home and reunite with their families, like how salmons would journey thousands of miles back to their native spawning grounds.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)Photo taken in Lunar New Year Fair 年宵花市 when I was 7.

My parents are traditional and BIG on celebrating Chinese New Year, even after we moved to North America.

So, Chinese New Year is the BEST time of the year as a kid!

Chinese New Year meant…

…holidays = no school (when I was still in Hong Kong)!

…delicious Chinese New Year Food & Desserts (endless candies & Ferrero Rocher – my favorite!!)

…red & gold glitter, festivities like visiting the Lunar New Year Fair 年宵花市, the fire crackers, the lion dance…

…flooded with love from family & relatives – the gifts, new clothes, and best of all…the Red Pockets!! (until your parents say they’ll “save” them up for you until you’re old enough) 😛

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Living was tough back in the days, so many Chinese New Year Food, decorations, or customs are meant to bring good luck, health & blessings for the coming year.

My dad often told us how during the tough days when he was a kid, Chinese New Year was the only time they got to eat meat.

Nian Gao or Nin Gou in Cantonese (“higher year”), is a sweet glutinous sticky rice cake that is enjoyed year round, but often a must-have during Chinese New Year, as the name sheds light to give progress, advancement, higher or taller, promising a better year ahead.

So, this easy to make & frugal Cantonese style Nian Gao is inevitably a popular Chinese New Year Food in many households!

My family loves to make them ahead and gift them to our relatives and friends.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Ingredients (8)

  • 2 tablespoons shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 pound sweet rice flour (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for coating the baking dish
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • Calories 397
  • Fat 7.46g
  • Saturated fat 4.04g
  • Trans fat 0.12g
  • Carbs 76.57g
  • Fiber 1.07g
  • Sugar 44.86g
  • Protein 6.44g
  • Cholesterol 75.73mg
  • Sodium 99.42mg
  • Nutritional Analysis per serving (12 servings)Powered by

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How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Chinese New Year cake is known in Mandarin as nian gao (“higher year”), and eating a piece of it is supposed to improve your luck in the coming year. Similar in texture to mochi, our nontraditional version is a baked coconut cake that has a moist, almost bouncy quality.

For the more traditional recipe, try our Steamed Chinese New Year Cake.

What to buy: Sweet rice flour, also known as glutinous rice flour or mochiko, is produced from sticky rice grains and is actually gluten-free. It’s available at Asian markets in the starch section. Regular rice flour, which is produced from long-grain rice, will not yield the same results.

We prefer to use organic coconut extract, such as this one from Flavorganics, rather than imitation extract, which has a chemical aftertaste.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

MelindaChan / Getty Images

  • Total: 60 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 50 mins
  • Servings: 10 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
338 Calories
6g Fat
60g Carbs
13g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 338
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 69mg 23%
Sodium 440mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 22%
Dietary Fiber 10g 36%
Protein 13g
Calcium 150mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

A Nian Gao is made for the Chinese New Year celebration in hopes of a good year ahead. The cake symbolizes growth, progress, and advancement. It is often given as a gift when visiting friends and family during the holiday. The classic ingredients are sugar, water, and rice flours and the sugar and water are cooked together and then beaten along with the rice flours. The mixture is poured into a bamboo steamer which is set in a wok with simmering water; the wok is covered and the cake is left to steam until it is firm to the touch, which can take up to 3 hours.

This recipe, reprinted with permission from “Asian American Village Online”, is westernized in that it is baked and includes cake ingredients like butter and eggs. It’s an ideal recipe if you are short on time or don’t like standing over the stove, worrying if the steamer will boil dry. The changes also make it a great introductory dessert to share with people who might not be familiar with Asian cakes. Even with these alterations, this baked cake will give you the taste of traditional Nian Gao, if not the same texture.

Chinese New Year is a time of enjoying many delicious foods and snacks. One of popular desserts eaten during this festive season is Chinese New Year’s cake (nian gao 年糕), that made with sticky, glutinous rice flour (mochi flour) with brown sugar because it’s symbolic of growing taller, achieving higher every year, that signifies a prosperous year awaiting ahead.

It’s often served warm as it is. However, in Hong Kong, people like to have the steamed sticky rice cake, sliced and then pan-fried with egg. If it’s pan-fried without egg, the texture would be slightly crispy outside and still pasty inside. When some relatives or friends come to visit them (bai nian拜年), they’d serve the sticky cake warm, with some other snacks, like turnip cake and taro cake.

Update: If you have an electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot, you might like to take a look at this radish recipe with video tutorial.

Chinese New Year Cake / Sticky Rice Cake Recipe

(Printable recipe)
By Christine’s Recipes
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 100 mins
Yield: Prepare a cake mould (removable base preferred), 5-inch round

  • The time of steaming cake depends on how big and thick your cake is.
  • I followed the traditional way of decorating the cake and inserted a date in the middle, after steaming 15 minutes or so when the surface is slightly set.

***If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #christinesrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

Nian Gao is a Chinese New Year food with many names. Let’s see… nian gao 年糕, ti kuih 甜粿 (called by the Hokkien and Peranakan), sweet sticky rice cake, kuih bakul (called by the Peranakan I guess and Malay), Chinese new year’s cake, year cake and rice cake. Fhewww! Since I’m Hokkien, I call it ti kuih (sweet cake). Literally nian gao means year cake. The sound of nian gao however echoes the sound of 年高 (year higher) which means rising abundance/prosperous or higher achievement for the coming year.

Besides offering ti kuih during CNY’s eve and pai tee kong (prayer to God of Heaven-Jade Emperor on the 8th night of Chinese New Year), ti kuih is also offers to the Kitchen God (about a week before CNY) so that his mouth is full of sticky cake hence he’s unable to badmouth the human family and also as a bribe (to sweeten him) so that he will give favorable report to God of Heaven when he returns to heaven. We don’t have Kitchen God in our kitchen. However my paternal grandma worshiped the Kitchen God and I’ve seen her offering ti kuih, oranges and joss sticks to the Kitchen God.

Making ti kuih involves 3 simple ingredients however it takes a VERY long time to cook. Hence I guess that’s why most newer/modern recipes call for the use of brown sugar and/or caramelized sugar to shorten the steaming time. The ti kuih recipe I’m sharing uses the old traditional Straits Chinese-Peranakan method (READ: Involves 10-12 hours of steaming) Hehe Did I just give you a heart attack? Hehe don’t worry, I had a mild one too when I first scan the recipe. I know the long steaming hours seem daunting but I assure you it is not and the outcome of the homemade ti kuih will make you feel very proud and happy. Not to mention the smell of the caramelized sugar (after long hours of steaming) is a wonderful way to make the house smell like sugar factory. Haha

Now what prompted me to make ti kuih this year is because I was horrified at the cost of ti kuih. It’s about RM10-12 a piece for say a medium size ti kuih. How do you justified the cost? Ingredients are simple and cheap. Of course steaming method is long if using the traditional way but still… So I told my mom I’ll make some for her this year.

Ok I know I talked too much already. Let’s get started!

Combine glutinous rice flour and water.

Btw I’ve seen a recipe using glutinous rice flour and tang flour (tang mien fun) together. Anyone know what is the effect of using tang flour in ti kuih?

Mix to become a thick batter-dough. Then, add sugar. Mix until sugar dissolves.

At this point I was wondering how am I suppose to add sugar next since the mixture resemble a dough!

Surprisingly as I mix in the sugar, the dough mixture turn into liquid. Woo! Anyone is good in chemistry? Care to explain why? I’m kinda dumb. Haha Update: I found the answer myself: osmotic pressure. Yes it can happen even if the sugar is ‘solid’.

Ti kuih batter. Leave it aside while you get ready the banana leaf and container.

Tsk, some recipe call for the use of oil. Maybe one of the reason is to glisten the surface of Ti Kuih and the 2nd reason is so that you will find it easy to remove the cake from tin later (I guess). Can anyone enlighten me on this?

Banana leaf which I got from my Indian neighbor. Blanch banana leaf to soften it. One of the pro of having Indian neighbor. 🙂 And the leaf is as tall as me! Healthy tree… kekeke

If you cannot find banana leaf, sub it with glass paper (also known as cellophane paper).

Line the tins (circumference and base) with three layers of banana leaf. Leave enough leaf to extend above the tin so that it can be folded back around the rim of the tin. Tie with string or rubber bands.

I’m using tiffin carrier container as the tin (12-14cm diameter-not a good idea actually). Not gonna share how I cut the banana leaf and fit into the tin cause my attempt was unsuccessful. The result was kinda ugly. I’ll experiment more later and perhaps share with you the right way in my future post.

Next pour batter into the lined tins until 3/4.

Then cover the top with muslin cloth to prevent vapour/water dripping into the cake. Secure the cloth with string or rubber bands.

I used batik cloth as I don’t have muslin cloth. You can use any white cloth or aluminium foil I think. The pro of using rubber bands here is that you can open the top easily to look at the condition of the cake compared to using string but rubber band will be less elastic as the steaming time gets longer. So prepare some extra rubber bands on hand. Not a problem actually, just FYI.

In high heat, steam for 10-12 hours, or until ti kuih is golden brown. I actually steam the Ti Kuih in low heat. The only thing you need to do during the 10-12 hours steaming is to make sure the steamer has enough water.

For my case, 5 hours into steaming, the batter changes from white into light brown color. Then later it changes into golden brown color (caramelized sugar). I steamed my ti kuih for 10 hours.

Finally allow the ti kuih to set overnight (best if you leave it for 2-3 days) before removing them from the tins. Trim off the leaf to get neat edges. Allow ti kuih to harden slightly (about a week) before cutting for consumption. That’s it! Easy peasy right? 😛 Hehehe

Chinese New Year Ti Kuih (Nian Gao-Sweet Sticky Rice Cake-Kuih Bakul)
Adapted from Nyonya Flavours.
Yields 3 cakes.

400g glutinous rice flour
400ml water
500g sugar

1 banana leaf
3-4 round tins (8cm-10cm diameter, 10cm height)
cotton string or rubber bands

1. In a large mixing bowl, add rice flour and water. Mix to form a thick batter-dough. Add sugar and mix until sugar dissolves. Place aside.

2. Blanch banana leaf to soften it. Line the tins with three layers of trimmed banana leaves. Leave enough leaf to extend above the tin so that it can be folded back around the rim of the tin. Tie with string or rubber bands. If you’re unable to find banana leaf, you can substitute with glass paper (also known as cellophane paper).

3. Pour batter into lined tins to about 3/4. Then cover the tins with muslin cloth to prevent vapour/water dripping into the cake. Secure with string or rubber bands. Note: I used batik cloth here (make sure it doesn’t stain) or I guess you can use any white cloth or aluminium foil.

4. In high heat, steam for 10-12 hours, or until ti kuih is golden brown in color. Tsk I steamed the ti kuih with low heat. Remember to add water to steamer from time to time.

5. Let the ti kuih to set overnight (best if you can leave it for 2-3 days) before removing from the tins. Trim the leaf at the edge for neater look. Allow ti kuih to harden slightly for a week before cutting.

Note: Ti kuih can last a couple of months at room temperature or more in the refrigerator.
Do not throw away molded ti kuih. Just wipe with a clean dry cloth. This is a norm for my family. Haha

Serving suggestions:
1. Slice and serve.

2. Cut into small pieces (3cm), steam until soft and coat with freshly grated coconut to which a little salt has been added).

3. Cut into pieces, sandwich between slices of taro and/or sweet potato, dip in batter and deep fried until golden and crispy. Follow my grandma’s recipe.

Red Bean Nian Gao

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

One of the most popular Chinese New Year desserts in Chinese and Taiwanese cooking is sweet nian gao (甜年糕). The two most popular nian giao are red bean sweet nian gao and brown sugar nian gao.

Here, we are going to teach you one of the methods used in the East to cook sweet nian gao, which is to wrap the nian gao in dumpling pastry, spring roll pastry or wonton pastry and deep fry it. This will make the sweet nian gao soft, almost melting cheese like in the middle but crispy and crunchy on the outside.

There are other methods you can use which include coating the sweet nian gao with batter and pan-frying until the nian gao softens or you can pan fry the nian gao on its own. Wrapping them in dumpling pastry is our favorite method for preparing this dessert, partially because it looks nice, and it’s a great treat that you can give to your friends or family during the Chinese New Year period.

Another popular dessert during the Chinese New Year is turnip cake.

How to Make Red Bean Nian Gago

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

In order to make red bean nian go you need to prepare sweet red beans first.

Ingredients for Sweet Red Bean

  • 400 g red beans (soak in water for 2 to 3 hours)
  • 400 g brown sugar (demerara sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Procedure for Sweet Red Bean

  1. Drain the red beans and put them into a saucepan. Add 3 cups of water into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it has reached boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, until the red beans are soft enough that you can squash them with your fingers. Keep stirring the red beans to prevent them from burning. Add more water to the saucepan if necessary.
  2. Mix sugar and salt with the red beans while they are still hot and leave to cool completely.

Ingredients for Red Bean Nian Gao

  • 450 g glutinous rice flour
  • 400 g sweet red beans
  • 420 ml water
  • 400 g brown sugar
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Procedure for Red Bean Nian Gao:

  1. Boil water and add brown sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and leave to cool down.
  2. Mix glutinous rice flour with step 1 and make sure there are no lumps in the mixture.
  3. Mix sweet red beans into the mixture.
  4. Brush a layer of oil into tin foil boxes or other rectangular mold.
  5. Use a bamboo steamer to steam the nian gao. Wait for the water to boil before you steam the nian gao and if you need to top up the water, use only hot water.
  6. When the nian gao is completely cool, remove from the mold. Cut your rice cake into 1-inch rectangles and fold them into either spring roll wrappers or wonton wrappers. Heat the oil to 375F and deep fry them until the pastries have turned a golden brown color.

Store the nian gao in the fridge for 5 days once cooled, or store in the freezer for up to 1 month. Remember to use cling film to wrap them individually before you put them into the fridge or freezer to prevent the surface of the nian gao from drying out.

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Chinese New Year Steamed Cake (nian gao)

Nian gao is a steamed cake that is traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year. During the 2 week long celebration, nian gao is often given and received as gifts. It is a vegan cake made with glutinous rice flour (also known as sticky rice flour). Since it does not contain eggs or baking powder/soda, it has a chewy, dense, and slightly sticky texture. It really only tastes good when served hot, either from the steamer or pan fried (see photo below). Also, note that nian gao is not meant to be very sweet (but you can use more sugar if you’d like). There are variations of nian gao that you could try (ie. using coconut milk) and there are very good baked nian gao cakes too (see my recipe here). The recipe below is for the plain, traditional steamed cake.

(Another steamed cake that is often enjoyed at Chinese New Year is turnip cake. See my improved recipe here.)

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Photo below: Slices of the nian gao are coated in raw egg and pan fried in a little bit of oil. But some people prefer to omit the egg and pan fry the nian gao directly in the oil.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Steamed Nian Gao Recipe (Chinese New Year Cake)

fills 2 x 8″ round pie plates or 1 x 9″ round and 2″ deep straight sided plate; adapted from

Note: Nian gao is freezer friendly, so don’t worry if you can’t finish all of it.

6 cups glutinous rice flour (sticky rice flour)

1 cup wheat starch (or substitute with glutinous rice flour)

5 slabs of Chinese brown sugar (“peen tong”) – Note: If you prefer a sweeter cake, use up to 7 slabs.

optional for garnish: 1 Chinese seedless, dried red date (jujube)

optional for garnish: pinch of sesame seeds

optional for pan frying: 1 egg, lightly beaten

Traditionally, the brown sugar slabs were shaved into flakes by hand with a knife. Now, to save time, people simply dissolve the sugar in hot water. I attempted to turn the sugar slabs into a powder using my food processor but it almost broke my favourite kitchen utensil. So, simply chop each slab of sugar into many pieces and place them into a large, heatproof bowl. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the sugar, cover, and set aside until all of the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has cooled completely. If the syrup has cooled but your sugar is not completely dissolved, transfer this to a pot and heat it gently until the remaining pieces of sugar dissolve. Then allow this to cool completely.

Meanwhile, lightly grease the round heatproof plate(s) that you will be using. You can use pie plates or disposable aluminum plates. You’re supposed to use a 9 inch round disposable aluminum plate that has straight sides (not sloped) and is 2 or 3 inches deep. However, these are hard to find. So, you can use 2 x 8-inch round aluminum pie plates instead.

Set up your steaming equipment and bring the water to a rolling boil. (See my post on How to Steam Cook Food here.) I used a steamer rack in a wok covered with a lid. Make sure that the water never comes in contact with the bottom of the pie plate. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the glutinous rice flour and wheat starch (if using). On the lowest speed (fitted with the paddle attachment), add the cooled syrup gradually. Mix for 30 seconds. Then add an additional 1/2 cup of cold water and continue to mix on the slowest speed for 5 more minutes. The dough should be smooth, slightly moist, and shiny. Place the dough into the prepared dish(es) and pat the dough to ensure that the dishes are filled evenly. Note that this cake will rise slightly during the steaming process, so do not overfill the pans. Then gently press one end of the dried red date (if using) into the centre of the cake. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds and place into the steamer. Steam for 40 to 60 minutes, checking the water level every 10 to 15 minutes. Add more boiling water as needed and do Not allow the wok to burn dry. The cake is done when it pulls away easily from the sides of the dish and the top of the cake is evenly coloured light brown. As you remove the cake from the steamer, pour off any water that may have accumulated on top of the cake. Place on a wire rack and cool completely. You could eat it while it’s still hot, but it will be very sticky and it’s better pan fried. Store wrapped in syran wrap in the refrigerator or freeze it.

When ready to eat, remove the cake from the pan and invert it onto a cutting board. Cut it into quarters. Then cut each quarter crosswise into two 2 inch wide strips (not into wedges). Each of these strips should then be sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Lightly coat the pan with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, dip and coat the slices of cake with the beaten egg and place them into the hot pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Pan fry each side until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes each side and flipping once. Then transfer to a clean plate (do not stack the pieces) and serve immediately while still hot. The insides will be warm, soft and gooey and the outsides will be slightly crispy.

Making Sweet Sticky Nian Gao in a slow cooker.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

This is an updated post.

style=”text-align: justify;”>We are having a virtual Sweet Lunar New Year Party .

and I am bringing Nian Gao, my first time trying out.

Check at the end of this post for delicious Chinese New Year food from other bloggers.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

What is Nian Gao?

It is also know as Tikoy (in Hokkien) or Kuih Bakul (in Malay language).

Why is it called Kuih Bakul in Malay language (Bahasa Malaysia)?

anything of traditional food be it savoury or sweet, we usually refer them as kuih.

Bakul, refer to basket.

Traditionally, bamboo baskets lined with banana leaves were used as mould to hold its shape, while it sit steaming away in a steamer.
Modern days, either plastic vessels are used or I would used ramekins.

This sweet sticky cake can only be found during Chinese New Year celebration.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

A little tale.

I grew up in a multicultural neighbourhood.

Without fail, every Chinese New Year, either neighbours across our house or my dad’s friends would send us Chinese New Year goodies.

A plateful of goodies would have Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Cookies), kuih kapit (Love letters) plus the sweet and sticky Nian Gao.

Chinese New Year is the only time we get to eat Nian Gao.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Preparing Sweet sticky Nian Gao | Tikoy | Kuih Bakul

The Sweet Sticky Nian Gao has basic and simple ingredients, but it is time consuming.

3 ingredients are Glutinous rice flour, water and sugar.

Another not listed and mentioned ingredient and that one must have is. PATIENCE!!

Remember to grease the ramekins before lining it with banana leaves.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

How to Cook Sweet Sticky Nian Gao | Tikoy | Kuih Bakul

I was told by hubby that his late grandmother took at least 12 hours to steam Nian Gao.
and she did not use kerosene stove or gas stove!

She used wood fire and steamer, for all her Nian Gao!
Imagine. huffing and puffing to keep the fire going!

I planned to cook Nian Gaos using the steamer, and was planning to keep the steamer going for at least 10 hours. minus the wood fire of course 😛

. but my plan was backfired!

I was using my portable induction cooker and that beeping bl**d*’ thing (read with angry -swear tone ;p) switched off after 4 hours!

My sweet sticky Nian gao, was still pale and gooey .. no where near “Done”.

With swift action, I transferred the ramekins to slow cooker and continue cooking until the cake turn to golden in colour (another 10 hours).

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Cooking Nian Gao | Tikoy | Kuih Bakul using a slow cooker

It is so much easier to steam Nian gao in a slow cooker.
I have no worries.. just click and walk away.

My main concern was .

if I were to steam the cakes using conventional method, steamer and stove, I have to keep on checking water level in the steamer.

my friend, is ‘troublesome’ and dangerous, because I can be forgetful at times!

But with slow cooker, its easy. fill up water and check again after 6 hours! or fill up with hot boiling water before we turn in for the night.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

How do we eat Sweet Sticky Nian Gao?

By slicing the hardened Nian Gao into thin slices, and just ate it as it is, like eating cheese :D.

However, my husband only enjoy eating Nian Gao, when it is thinly sliced, sandwich between equal thickness of sliced yam and sweet potato then dip into rice flour batter and deep fried!

re-steam, roll the hot gooey Nian Gao in slightly salted desiccated coconut.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Cooking tips

  • Grease the ramekins with vegetable shortening
  • Pre-cook the batter

Pre-cooking Nian gao batter yield much better caramel colour, plus the batter didn’t “run” in between the banana leaves.

Note : I used 4 x 1 cup (250ml) ramekins.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Dishes to try for Chinese New Year from bloggers

Earlier in the post, I mentioned that we are having a virtual Sweet Lunar NewYear Party to welcome the year of a Rooster, right?

Many thanks to Christine from Vermillion Roots for organising such a fun event :D.

So. come and join us and lets celebrate and PARTY :D.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Chinese New Year is a hopeful holiday. There’s no resolutions to make and then break, just things to do now to set yourself up for a better year. On the traditional to-do list is to make a Prosperity Cake. With durian, of course, because more durian makes a better year, right?

Nian Gao is a traditional sticky rice cake eaten on the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar in most countries in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, it’s called Kuih Bakul.

The cakes symbolizes growth in all facets of life, whether in your business, your happiness, or the simple things like children growing and crops thriving.

They also happens to be vegan and gluten-free. Those ancient Chinese were really wise.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Because it’s made of rice flour, the cake is slightly translucent and has a gummy, mochi-like texture. In ancient times, it was flavored with almonds, but these days you can use just about anything. Coconut milk is really common. Durian — well, maybe less so — but it’s definitely a thing. I’ve followed a Malaysian recipe that I found on the internet so long ago I’ve actually forgotten where.

So sorry about the lack of credit.

The durian-ness is pretty mild but is definitely present. Those who do not like durian will not like this cake, but those of us who do — well, it’s pretty awesome.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Nian Gao is made by steaming the batter, not baking it, because as I’ve mentioned before on this blog ovens are few and far between in tropical kitchens.

Until this point in my life, I had never attempted to steam a cake. It sounded tricky. It sounded like I might easily burn something.

It was a chance for growth.

Like most things that are intimidating, the process was much easier than I expected. Here’s how to make your own lucky durian cakes for the Chinese New Year.

Watch the video:

Click below to watch me make Durian Nian Gao in my Airbnb‘s kitchen, or scroll down to read the ingredients.

Durian Nian Gao Recipe


  • 1/2 cup durian
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
  • 1 cup water
  • Hope for the future

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

1. Boil the 1 cup of water and add the oil and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and add the durian flesh, whisking until mostly smooth. You can fish out extraneous durian fibers with a fork.

3. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

4. Add rice flour and stir until the batter is thick and smooth, sort of like this:

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

5. Pour batter into a round glass or metal baking dish, several cupcake-size containers, or be sketchy like me and find any handy container that will survive being boiled for an hour.

6. In a large pot, add water until it’s about 1 1/2 inch deep.

7. Place your “cake molds” in the pan. Cover with a towel under the lid to absorb the steam and prevent condensed water from dripping down onto the cakes.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

8. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour.

9. Remove the “molds” from the pot and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before attempting to remove cakes from their molds.

10. Decorate, and place on a red plate or platter.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Celebrate, because you just successfully made a steamed cake! Can you taste the growth?

In a week, Chinese communities all over the world, especially in Asia, will celebrate the Lunar New Year. I’ve long had this whimsical idea of experiencing Chinese Lunar New Year in different parts of Asia but, alas, I booked our Chiang Mai trip before I learned the date of this year’s Chinese New Year. We will land in Chiang Mai three days late.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

But that’s okay. Chinese New Year is big in the Philippines too. And one dish that is ever-present during the festivities is nian gao.

We call it tikoy here in the Philippines. I grew up with it. Even when I was still too young to go to school, I watched my grandfather slice the rice cake, cut it into slices, dip the slices in beaten egg and fry the slippery pieces until they were golden and the egg had turned into a lightly crisp crust. I don’t know if that’s how the Chinese serve their nian gao but that’s how we Filipinos enjoy tikoy.

Oh, I love tikoy. I’m craving right now. But these are photos from 2009. I wish I could post new ones but we can’t buy tikoy just like that. Not that they’re unavailable. They’re everywhere and in various shapes and flavors too. But, in accordance with Chinese beliefs, you’re not supposed to buy nian gao for personal consumption. You can only give it or accept it as a gift. Speedy, my husband, says that we respect the tradition.

What is nian gao made of?

Nian gao is made with glutinous rice flour, sometimes steamed and, at other times, cooked in a pan and stirred until thick. It may be savory or sweetened. How it is served varies from region to region. It may simply be pan fried, stir fried with meat and vegetables, dropped into soups or made into a pudding.

The nian gao given and received as gifts during Chinese New Year is the sweet variety.

How did nian gao become associated with the Lunar New Year?

One story has it that it was an offering to bribe the Kitchen God (a reference in Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife) who reports everyone’s behavior to the Jade Emperor.

Another theory has to do with how nian gao is pronounced.

The pronunciation of Nian Gao sounds like ‘year high’ (年高), which symbolizes a higher income, a higher position, the growth of children, and generally the promise of a better year.

This is how we prepare nian gao at home

Want to try cooking nian gao Filipino-style?

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Take a sharp knife and wipe lightly with cooking oil. Position the knife on top of the nian gao and press down. Don’t cut using the sawing motion; otherwise, the cake will stick to the metal. The ideal thickness is 1/4 to 1/2 inch. My personal preference is on the thickish side. You may have to wipe the knife with oil repeatedly until you have sliced the whole nian gao.

Start heating oil in a wok or frying pan. This isn’t deep frying. You want just enough oil to reach a depth of about half an inch.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Dip each piece of rice cake in beaten egg.

Fry the nian gao in batches. The temperature of the oil should be somewhere between medium and low. What you are aiming for is to allow the rice cakes to soften in the heat before the egg darkens too much.

Flip the nian gao to brown the other side.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Drain the cooked nian gao on paper towels and serve immediately. If you cooked them correctly, the rice cakes should be soft and sticky while the outside is golden brown and crisp.

Updated from a post originall published in January of 2009.

How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite. There are many customs and traditions associated with Chinese New Year. One of the most pervasive has led to an exercise that takes place days before the celebration actually begins. It is believed the Kitchen God returns to heaven a week before the New Year to report on a family’s behavior during the year that is ending. An unfavorable report means that the family will have bad luck in the year to come. In order to prevent that from happening the tradition of making sticky cake took hold. The belief that the Kitchen God could not issue a bad report if his mouth was full became pervasive. While a bit softer, the cake has the same chewy properties as taffy. It is, in a word, sticky. It’s usually made with glutinous rice flour, a candy called peen tong and dried fruit. The traditional cake is always steamed and, if it’s made with peen tong, it is always a rich caramel in color. However, as you move across China, you’ll find there are regional differences in how the cake is made. If granulated sugar is used in place of peen tong, the cake will have a creamy hue. The cake is not easy to make, but it can be bought for next to pennies. Ergo, most sticky rice cakes, including mine, are purchased rather than made. A link to more information about the Kitchen God and a classical recipe for the steamed cake be found here . I’m including a much easier version of the recipe for you to try, should you wish to do so. I want to wish all of you who are celebrating, an auspicious New Year that will be rich in family, friends and food.

16 oz. Mochiko sweet rice flour
One stick of butter or 3/4 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1 to 1-3/4 cup sugar–depending on if you like it sweeter
1 tablespoon baking soda
One can of red azuki beans

Mix everything but the beans with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed. Sprinkle Mochiko flour over a 9″x 13″ baking dish that has been oiled or sprayed with Pam. Spread half of the batter on the bottom of the baking pan. Spread the red azuki beans (you can mix some batter into the beans if they are too thick to spread). Spread the other half of the batter over the red azuki beans. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick (this is Chinese New Year, Cake after all) if it comes out clean, it is done. This is best served warm.

Stories, Culture, Science & Food

Unlike the New Year festivities celebrated midnight of December 31st that is based on the Gregorian Calendar, Chinese New Years varies each year… and it’s right around the corner! The Chinese Zodiac runs on a 12-year cycle of animals based on a calendar determined by the movement of the moon. On February 16th, the year of the Dog begins.

I remember my grandmother telling us about the difficult times ‘back in the day’, and Chinese New Year being that one time of the year everyone looked forward to most. During these harsh times, it became tradition that Chinese New Years be filled with food, decorations and customs to bring good luck, health and blessings in the coming year. Lion dances, bell ringing, lighting firecrackers and lucky red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’…. can you tell that it’s one of my favourite holidays growing up?

Husbands and sons who worked out of town would be home with their families, and cousins and grandchildren would visit bringing gifts of apples and oranges. The apple fruit is pronounced ‘ping2guo3’ and 平平安安 or ‘ping2ping2 an1an1’ is homonymous for safe and security; and the mandarin orange pronounced as ‘ji2’ was often gifted with the blessing of 大吉大利 or ‘da4ji2da4li4’, homonymous for good luck and good profits. She said that it didn’t matter how poor you were, on New Years, you wore new clothes, even if it the only new thing you got was your underwear! Growing up, it was tradition that you wore the lucky colour red during New Years and red banners with calligraphy of blessings would hang along the sides of doorways. Traditional meals would be dumplings or ‘元寶’ (round and plump, they symbolized prosperity and took its form from the shape of old currencies) and hotpot or ‘圍爐’ (meaning to ‘gather around the stove’); it didn’t matter how far you had to travel for work, everyone would make it home to gather around the table and share New Years dinner with the family.

Nian Gao or Chinese New Year Cake was one of my favourite treats. ‘Nian2’ literally means ‘year’ and ‘Gao1’ or ‘cake’ is homonymous with the Chinese word for ‘higher’, bringing blessing for each year thereafter to be better than the last. Nian Gao became a sweet glutinous rice cake that is enjoyed to celebrate for a promising year ahead of progress, advancement.

新年快樂, 祝福大家狗年旺旺! Happy Chinese New Years

Nian Gao 年糕



180g (1 cup) Brown Sugar

1 1/2 cup (375mL) Coconut Milk

2 Tbsp (30mL) Sesame Paste

275g Glutinous Rice Flour

125g Wheat Starch

1 Tbsp (15 mL) O il and more to grease the pan

  • 1 Red Date (for decoration)
  • 1 Eggs, Whisked – to serve
  • Method

    1. Mix brown sugar, coconut milk and sesame paste together until sugar is dissolved.
    2. Sift glutinous rice flour and wheat flour.
    3. Add flour into coconut milk syrup mixture while stirring to combine well.
    4. Pour mixture through a sieve to prevent clumps in batter.
    5. Transfer batter to a greased cake mould.
    6. Cover with aluminum foil tightly and place in wok to steam over high heat for about 40 minutes OR cook in Instant Pot: Pour 1 cup (250mL) water in the pressure cooker, and place cake pan on top of a trivet. Close the lid and pressure cook at ‘High Pressure’ for 30 minutes and allow for full natural release.
      The steam/cook time can be adjusted depending on how big and thick your cake is.
    7. Test doneness by sticking a chopstick in the centre of the cake. Cover the hole using a red date. (It is quite normal for the cake to stick to the choptick, so what you’re looking for is an even colour and that the flour does not taste raw).
    8. Once the sticky rice cake has cooled to room temperature, place in refrigerator for at least 4-8 hours before cutting into it. (It makes it much easier to slice into thick pieces).
    9. Dip the sliced cake into whisked egg and pan fry on medium-low heat until both sides are brown. Serve hot. Nutritional Facts

    Per Serving (1/12th of the Cake)

    Calories: 300 kcal
    Fat: 10 g
    Carbohydrates: 48 g
    Fiber: 1 g
    (Net Carbohydrate: 47 g)
    Protein: 3 g

    A source of:

    1 serving of ‘grain products’ from Canada’s Food Guide

    I like taking pictures of food (especially bread and pastries).

    Every time I visit my parents, I look forward to eating my mom’s nian gao (年糕). Nian gao, which translates to “year cake”, is a baked sweet made from glutinous rice flour. The texture is sticky and stretchy, and just slightly custardy, and it sort of resembles mochi. It’s often eaten during Lunar Nea Year, though my mom makes it for us every time we go back home, and the entire pan usually disappears within the day. The recipe as written below adds red bean paste to the nian gao, but it’s a very flexible recipe and highly adaptable to different flavorings and mix-ins. My mom has also made it with matcha, flax seed, dates, and nuts mixed in, though not with all of these simultaneously!

    On my last trip back home over the holidays, my mom tried using a

    that really improved the texture and color of the nian gao and made it even more addictive than ever. So even though Lunar New Year was yesterday, I still wanted to share her recipe.

    What was the secret ingredient she used? Kefir milk! Kefir is a tangy fermented, cultured milk drink that resembles yogurt a bit, but has a thinner consistency. It’s very high in nutrients and probiotics, and so it has a lot of health benefits. My parents have recently been making a lot of kefir for after my dad’s coworker gave him some kefir grains, which are like sourdough starter or kombucha SCOBY but for kefir. They’re such big fans of it that they tried giving me and my sisters grains to take back with us in our suitcases 😅

    My mom tried using some in her nian gao recipe, which originally calls for regular milk, and found that it resulted in a much plusher and softer texture and whiter appearance. While baking does kill the probiotic cultures, using kefir still adds vitamins and minerals to the nian gao, in addition to a better taste and texture. If you don’t have kefir, regular milk will work fine in this recipe. But if you have some available, I’d definitely recommend using it—it really takes this nian gao to the next level!

    Another thing to note is that this nian gao recipe is not as sweet or oily as some others; most of the sweetness comes from the red bean paste. We prefer less sugary desserts but if you have a sweeter tooth you may want to increase the amount of sugar you use.

    Nian gao (Chinese sticky rice cake)

    Adapted from Allrecipes
    Yield: one 9 x 13 pan

    • 1 (16 oz) bag of glutinous rice flour (we use this brand)
    • 1 /2 cup canola oil
    • 2 3 /4 cups kefir (you can use regular milk if you don’t have kefir)
    • 3 /4 cup white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3 eggs, beaten
    • 1 /2 (18.75 oz) can of sweetened red bean paste (feel free to try other mix-ins instead!)
    1. Preheat oven to 325 ºF (165 ºC). Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
    2. In a large bowl, mix together the glutinous rice flour, canola oil, kefir, sugar, and baking powder. Add the beaten eggs, and mix. Pour the batter into the lined baking pan. Then drop small spoonfuls of red bean paste throughout the batter.
    3. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven, and keep the pan inside the oven for another 3–7 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and try to let it cool completely before devouring 🙂

    Last week, on a surprise visit to see family, Mom made a couple of dishes that I normally don’t cook myself. One of them is this Chinese Fried Sticky Rice Cake Noodle dish (long name!) In Chinese, it’s called 炒年糕 Chǎo Nián Gāo.

    The recipe is from my Dad’s hometown of NingBo in China.

    What are Sticky Rice Cake Noodles (Nian Gao)

    Nian Gao is normally eaten for Chinese New Year, as it signifies good fortune for the coming year. “Nian” means year and “gao” means high — translating loosely to “every year, may you reach higher and higher.”

    Nian Gao can also mean sticky rice cakes that are fried in egg (savory) or fried with sugar (sweet). The Shanghainese and Korean version (TteokGuk photo) of nian gao is this recipe, where they take the glutinous rice cakes, cut them into ovals 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and stir fry them like noodles.

    You can find these rice cake noodles at Asian markets, either dried form (in the dried noodle section), frozen or in the refrigerated noodle section. Mom likes to buy frozen rice cake noodles, as they keep well in the freezer. They have to be soaked for 2 hours up to overnight in water. Purchase either the Korean or Chinese version, they are the same.

    The rice cakes have to be soaked for 2 hours (up to overnight)

    Dried or fresh Chinese mushrooms (or shiitake), canned bamboo shoots

    Mom used mustard greens that she had salted overnight, but I’ve given easier instructions in the recipe to use Napa Cabbage.

    and Pork marinated in soy, rice wine, pepper, cornstarch and a pinch of sugar.

    The pork is first stir-fried until almost cooked through.

    Then add the Chinese mushrooms.

    Add in the bamboo shoots.

    Then the vegetables.

    Season with a bit of soy sauce. Taste first and add more if needed.

    Add in the drained rice cakes.

    Pour in 1/4 cup of chicken broth or vegetable broth, cover, turn heat to low and let cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice cakes are softened.

    Stir Fried Chinese Sticky Rice Cakes (Nian Gao) Recipe (炒年糕 chǎo nián gāo)

    Servings: 6

    Prep Time: 15 minutes

    Cook Time: 15 minutes (with up to overnight soaking of noodles)

    Notes on the sticky rice cakes:
    They rice cakes should be gluten-free, but please check the packaging.
    If dried – soak in water at room temperature overnight or up to 2 days
    If frozen – defrost then soak in water at room temperature for 2 hours up to overnight
    If fresh (in refrigerated section) – soak 2 hours in water at room temperature up to overnight

    Notes on mushrooms
    Mom likes to use dried Chinese black mushrooms, as they have much more flavor than the fresh shiitake mushrooms you’ll find in the refrigerated section. But feel free to use either.


    One 24-ounce package rice cake nian goh noodles (see notes above)
    4 dried Chinese black mushrooms (or 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms)
    2 teaspoons soy sauce
    freshly ground black pepper
    pinch of sugar
    1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
    1 teaspoon cornstarch
    8 ounces pork, cut into very thin strips
    2 tablespoons cooking oil
    6 ounces Chinese Napa Cabbage, shredded
    One 6-ounce can julienne cut bamboo shoots, drained
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth


    1. In a large bowl, soak the rice cakes according to the instructions in the headnotes. If you are using dried Chinese black mushrooms, in a small bowl, soak the dried Chinese mushrooms for 2 hours or up to overnight until softened. If you are using fresh shiitake mushrooms, skip this step.

    2. In a medium bowl, combine the 2 tsp soy sauce, black pepper, sugar, rice wine, cornstarch together. Mix in the pork and marinate for 20 minutes or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

    3. When you are ready to cook, have all of your ingredients ready. Drain the rice cakes. Drain the mushrooms and slice into very thin slices.

    4. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the cooking oil. Add the pork and cook until browned and almost cooked through.

    5. Add in the mushrooms and the bamboo shoots, stir fry for 1 minute. Add in the cabbage and stir fry for 2 minutes. Mix in the soy sauce.

    6. Add in the rice cakes and toss very well. Pour in the broth, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the rice cakes have browned a little and are softened. The sticky rice cakes will be just slightly chewy (but not hard to chew) similar to pasta cooked al-dente. Taste and add in additional soy sauce if needed. Serve immediately.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Sure, Chinese New Year Cupcakes are not the traditional dessert to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but the cake that I turned into cupcakes, nian gao, is. It’s a sticky, glutinous cake that is filled with red bean paste. To make it more cupcake-like, I frosted the cupcakes with a red bean buttercream frosting.

    Chinese New Year Cupcake Tasting Notes

    You have to be a fan of Chinese cakes to like these Chinese New Year Cupcakes. Jonathan felt that these cupcakes tasted just like the sticky buns filled with red bean paste that you can get at dim sum. Since he loves those, he loved these cupcakes. If you are expecting anything with any kind of a crumb, this is not the cake for you.

    Because the Chinese New Year cupcakes are so sticky, I would make one change if I were to make them again. Although I don’t typically bake in silicone cupcake wrappers, I think I would opt for silicone for these cupcakes – way too much of the cupcake stuck to the wrapper. If you don’t have silicone wrappers, you might also try spraying the inside of paper wrappers with a non-stick spray before pouring the batter in.

    The Chinese New Year Cupcake (Nian Gao) Recipe

    I got the recipe for the Nian Gao from the now-defunct Asian Eats blog. The traditional recipe is steamed, but the recipe on Asian Eats has been modified to a baked version. Below is that recipe modified to cupcake form. After the recipe text, I have some step-by-step photos.

    February 3, 2014 at 1:26 am · Filed under Asian Influences

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    What’s worse than getting poppy seeds stuck in your teeth? How about black sesame? That stuff can stain, but it’s worth it. Besides being one of my favorite flavors, it’s high in anthocyanins (the stuff of blueberries), calcium (more so than white sesame), magnesium, and other minerals. It’s even used in Chinese herbal medicine. Black sesame lends an almost smoky flavor to brittle, soup, and sticky rice desserts. Curiously, it’s not in nian gow, but I set out to change that.

    Nian gow literally means “sticky cake,” but since it also sounds like “higher year,” folk wisdom says it’s good luck to eat on Chinese New Year. Sweet versions have sticky rice flour, water, sugar, and sometimes red beans or dates. They’re steamed, and leftovers are pan fried till crispy. Since I don’t have a large steamer, I prefer to bake mine and skip straight to the golden brown deliciousness. If you like brownie edges, you’ll like baked nian gow. Some years ago, Chow posted a baked version, and people cried fowl over the nontraditional recipe. So what? I’m Chinese and I approve. So does my family. In fact, they’ve eaten it 24 times in a year.

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook Time: 50 minutes

    Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

    Yield: 32 rich squares

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Sweet rice flour, also known as glutinous rice flour or mochiko, is made from ground sticky rice grains. It’s actually gluten free and not the same as regular rice flour. Find it in Asian markets or health food stores in the baking or starch section. It typically comes in one-pound bags.

    You can use Chinese black sesame paste (tahini is different; its seeds are untoasted) and sweeten to taste, but it’s less expensive to make at home. If starting with raw seeds, heat in a pan over medium heat. Keep shaking the pan (so seeds don’t burn) til two or three seeds jump. Remove from heat immediately and cool completely.

    Black sesame paste inspired from Just One Cookbook; rice cake inspired from Frances Kai-Hwa Wang.

    Published: December 9, 2013 Last Updated: August 18, 2020
    By Sarah 91 Comments

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    This is a popular dish in southern China. For me, this dish is distinctively “Shanghai,” as it seemed to show up on the table more frequently after I met Judy, whose family is from that area. Our entire family enjoys this dish and the delicious chewiness of these sticky rice cakes, which are kind of like really chewy oval-shaped pasta.

    Nowadays, rice cakes are readily available in your Asian grocery store and found in the same section where they sell fresh noodles and tofu. Some varieties come vacuum packed, some are frozen, and some come fresh. You can sometimes even get them in whole sticks, which need to be sliced. Judy tells me that she has even seen dried packages where you need to soak them in water to reconstitute them like rice noodles. Any one of those varieties would work for this.

    Some of our other rice cake stir-fry dishes you must see are Steak and Scallion Rice Cake Stir-Fry, and our Shanghai Rice Cake Stir-fry. They all start with the chewy and addictive rice cakes (nian gao) which you cannot stop eating once you start!

    Stir-fried Sticky Rice Cakes Recipe Instructions

    Slice the pork into thin slices and mix well in a bowl with 1 teaspoon each of cornstarch, soy sauce, and vegetable oil.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Rinse the rice cakes in in water and drain.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Wash the napa cabbage and bok choy. If using napa cabbage, cut it into 1-inch slices. If using baby bok choy, just separate the leaves. We had bok choy on hand, so that’s what we used.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Slice the soaked dried shiitake mushrooms and the fresh mushrooms.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Clean and chop your leeks or scallions into 2-inch pieces. Mince your garlic. Set everything aside.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)
    Heat the wok over high heat until smoking and add 1 tablespoon oil to coat the wok and sear the pork.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Add the mushrooms…

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    The garlic and the leeks/scallions…

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    And the cabbage or bok choy.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Stir fry on high heat for a minute and add the Shaoxing wine. Add the sticky rice cakes and mix well, scooping up from the bottom of the wok for 30 seconds and then cover for one minute. Remove cover and add the soy sauces, oyster sauce, white pepper, salt, and sugar. Mix well and stir-fry until the rice cakes are cooked through but still chewy.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Plate and serve your Sticky Rice Cakes (Nian Gao) family-style.

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

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    We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Please read our privacy policy here

    Make our family’s traditional Pan Fried Nian Gao Recipe (New Year Cake) to celebrate Chinese New Year. This smooth & sweet gooey rice cake wrapped with crisp fragrant layer of egg is addictive to eat!

    Gung Hay Fat Choy!!

    Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve!

    Every year, my grandparents & parents would be like busy beavers working through the hustle bustle during the Chinese New Year holiday season.

    On the 28th day in the Lunar calendar, they would gather the family for the annual tradition to clean the house (年廿八、洗邋遢), meant to sweep out the bad luck. Clearly not my favorite part of CNY. 😛

    Then, they’ll visit markets, gather ingredients, and prepare for the big Reunion Dinner Celebration (Tuan Nian Fan 團年飯) that happens on the 30th day. Very much like Christmas dinner.

    Sometimes, the dinner can get huge, joined by all the relatives, extended family, and even the whole village! Nah, the village thing never happened to our families. hehe

    I wish though, as that would be so much fun!! 🙂

    How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

    Families from different regions also have their own unique customs and holiday food.

    Like how Northern families make jiaozi (dumplings), Southern families would make & gift Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Cake).

    A feast with an abundant table spread of meat, seafood, appetizers, sides, and desserts is definitely a must on New Year’s Eve!

    Each dish is coined a fancy poetic name that makes you scratch your head thinking you’re playing the Taboo game. But really, each dish is carefully chosen to bring blessings promising a better year.

    Each year leading up to CNY, I’d ask mom when she’ll make this Pan Fried Nian Gao. Chinese New Year is just not complete without this sweet, gooey, & fragrant deliciousness!! 😀