Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Nian Gao, or Sticky Rice Cake, is a traditional Chinese New Year dish that symbolizes growth, progress, and the promise of a better year. Here’s a simple recipe for making Nian Gao:


For the Batter:

  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

For Steaming:

  • Vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing
  • Red dates or other toppings (optional)


  1. Prepare the Steamer:
    • Grease a round or square cake pan that fits inside your steamer with vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the Batter:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, water, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract (if using). Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Cook the Batter:
    • Pour the batter into the greased cake pan.
    • If desired, add red dates or other toppings to the batter.
  4. Steam:
    • Place the cake pan into a steamer. If you don’t have a steamer, you can improvise by using a large pot with a steaming rack or a wok with a rack.
    • Steam over high heat for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the Nian Gao is set and becomes translucent.
  5. Cool and Slice:
    • Allow the Nian Gao to cool completely before slicing. It will firm up as it cools.
  6. Serve:
    • Once cooled and sliced, you can serve the Nian Gao as is or pan-fry the slices until they are golden brown and slightly crispy. Pan-frying adds a delightful texture to the dish.

Pan-Frying Instructions (Optional):

  1. Slice the Nian Gao:
    • Cut the Nian Gao into slices of your desired thickness.
  2. Prepare the Pan:
    • Heat a non-stick skillet or pan over medium heat.
  3. Pan-Fry:
    • Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the pan.
    • Place the Nian Gao slices in the pan and cook until both sides are golden brown and slightly crispy.
  4. Serve:
    • Transfer the pan-fried Nian Gao slices to a plate and serve warm.

Nian Gao can be enjoyed as is or incorporated into various dishes during the Chinese New Year celebrations. It’s a versatile dish that can be both sweet and savory, depending on your preferences.

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