Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nian Gao (Mochi Cake)

Happy Chinese New Year!!!! 2011, the year of the rabbit, is a year to celebrate our lil cute bouncy fluff ball friends. People born this year, 12, 24, 36... years ago are fortunate enough to have the bunny as their idol. How lucky these people are to have a zodiac that can symbolize their inner cuddly selves. As a monkey, I just can’t wait to swing around (do ya like that one?) and take in all the New Year celebrations.

Chinese holidays are always so festive, so vibrant, and very over the top. In china, red, bomb-like fireworks are set off, everyone has a two-week break, and families gather together to watch the big New Year show held in Beijing. The festivities here in America are not quite as, well, festive, but nevertheless, I always made it a big deal. After all, it’s only one day in twelve years!

Just like with all holidays, food plays a big role in Chinese New Year. The special thing about Chinese New Year food though, is that they all have a story behind them. For example, on the part of China where I come from, we eat dumplings for breakfast on Chinese New Year. They are made the night before and ready for boiling the next morning. Eating dumplings symbolizes wealth because the dumpling is shaped like an ancient gold coin. There is a tradition to enclose a coin in one of the dumplings, and the person who gets that dumpling has good luck for the year. I haven gotten it a few times, and I have to say, the luck really helps me get through the year.

Fish is also eaten on Chinese New Year to symbolize profit (essentially meaning money). This is because the Chinese word for fish (yu) is homonymous with the word for wish or abundance. In other parts of China, people eat a sweet sticky cake known as nian gao. This cake is meant to symbolize a family “sticking” together. Nian gao is nothing like your usual soft and spongy cake. It’s actually rather dense and chewy. Traditionally, nian gao is steamed, but I think that baking serves as a great alternative. You get the crisp golden edges that don’t come with steaming.

What a day this has been: Chinese New Year, Hump Day, Stuffed Animal Wednesday, no school due to the ice storm, and my two year anniversary with America! I think that this is a great beginning to a brand new year.



1/3 cup oil
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed to a little hotter than a fever
1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour (the green bag with the 3 elephants on it)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 cup red bean paste


1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir in the rice flour and baking powder. The mixture may be lumpy so try and break up the lumps.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Drop red bean paste by scant teaspoonfuls onto the top of the cake so that they will float.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. It should be golden.


  1. My favoriteee :D Thank you! Now I have some ideas for the TSA bagged breakfast exhange :)

  2. oh, and we like to add crushed almonds (or whatever it is) on the top. Makes for interesting texture.

  3. Thanks for that idea Meep! I'll be sure to give it a try next time.