Taiwanese Red Bean Rice Cake (Nian Gao)

China s traditional New Year s dishes, red bean rice cake (Nian Gao).

Taiwanese (or Chinese) Red Bean Rice Cake, also known as “Nian Gao,” is a traditional delicacy enjoyed during the Chinese New Year/ Lunar New Year and other festive occasions. This sweet and chewy treat symbolizes prosperity and good luck. Making it at home allows you to savor the authentic flavors while celebrating with loved ones. 

Ingredients

For the Red Bean Filling:

  • 1 cup adzuki beans
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Rice Cake:

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

Equipment:

  • Steamer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Steam-safe mold or cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Aluminum foil

Preparation

Preparing the Red Bean Filling:

  1. Soak the Adzuki Beans:
    • Rinse the adzuki beans thoroughly and soak them in water overnight or for at least 8 hours. This softens the beans for cooking.
  2. Cook the Adzuki Beans:
    • Drain and rinse the soaked adzuki beans. Place them in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender (usually 45-60 minutes).
  3. Sweeten the Red Bean Paste:
    • Mash the cooked adzuki beans with a fork or potato masher. Add sugar and salt, then cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to a paste-like consistency. Set aside to cool.

Making the Rice Cake Batter:

  1. Combine Dry Ingredients:
    • In a mixing bowl, whisk together glutinous rice flour and sugar.
  2. Create the Batter:
    • Gradually add water to the dry ingredients, whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Once well-mixed, add vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and salt. Continue whisking until the batter is smooth.
  3. Steam the Batter:
    • Grease the mold or cake pan and line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the mold, tapping it gently on the counter to remove air bubbles. Cover the mold tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Steam the Rice Cake:
    • Place the mold in a steamer and steam over high heat for 45-60 minutes or until the rice cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Assembling the Red Bean Rice Cake:

  1. Cool the Rice Cake:
    • Allow the rice cake to cool completely before handling. This helps it set and achieve the desired texture.
  2. Slice the Rice Cake:
    • Once cooled, carefully remove the rice cake from the mold and cut it into two layers horizontally.
  3. Spread the Red Bean Filling:
    • Spread a generous layer of the prepared red bean paste on the bottom layer of the rice cake. Place the second layer on top.
  4. Serve and Enjoy:
    • Slice the Taiwanese Red Bean Rice Cake into individual servings. Serve at room temperature and savor the delightful combination of the chewy rice cake and sweet red bean filling.

This Red Bean Rice Cake (Nian Gao) recipe allows you to recreate a beloved traditional dessert at home. Enjoy the process of making this symbolic treat and share it with family and friends during special occasions. May the sweet flavors and auspicious symbolism bring joy and prosperity to your festivities!

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