Steamed Sticky Rice Cake With Coconut – Whip It UP!
Nian Gao Coated in Coconut
By Grace Fong
Many of us may have food reserves stashed away in the pantry or the fridge that we’ve completely forgotten about. Take a peek! It just might yield surprises, like this sticky rice cake (nian gao). Although it is a traditional Chinese New Year confection, it is also eaten all year round as many households store it beyond the festive season. Indulging in nian gao as a family amidst the current COVID-19 global crisis is meaningful as the cake’s gluey texture symbolises unity. Here’s a simple way to enjoy the glutinous rice treat! After all, a family that sticks together is a family that can surmount challenges with confidence.
Total Time: < 1 hour
Serves: 9-10 persons
A: Nian Gao
500g nian gao
2-3 pandan leaves, washed & cut 5cm lengths
1 teaspoon oil
B: Pandan Leaf Boxes
10-12 leaves, washed & cut into 13 lengths
C: Coconut Coating
220g freshly grated coconut
½ teaspoon salt
1. Make pandan leaf boxes first. Fold each leaf 4 times. Open it up and you will see the folds. Using a scissors, make small cuts on the folds on 1 side of each leaf, stopping short of the centre vein. Holding 1 end of the leaf, fold inwards until it becomes a square. Secure using a toothpick cut to size. Set them aside.
2. Place coconut and pandan leaves on an enamel or stainless steel plate. Steam for 5 minutes. Add salt and stir it in with a spatula. Set it aside.
3. Peel away banana leaf from nian gao.
Using a sharp and big knife, cut into pieces.
4. Arrange nian gao on a large plate lined with banana leaf that has been oiled. Add pandan leaves on top.
5. Bring 2 litres of water to a rolling boil in a wok or steamer. Steam nian gao for 7-8 minutes until it starts to yield and becomes soft and gooey. They will stick together.
6. Using a spoon and fork, pick up a small portion of nian gao and drop it onto the steamed coconut. Coat each piece thoroughly with coconut.
7. Place a piece (or more if desired) of nian gao inside a pandan leaf box.
8. Alternatively, serve coconut-coated rice cake without pandan leaf boxes. It is best eaten on the same day.
TIPS: Banana leaf lining in step 3 not only prevents nian gao from sticking to the plate making it easy to handle. It also adds a pleasing aroma to the rice cake.
NOTES: A good nian gao that has been steamed over 12 hours keeps well and matures in flavour as it ages. The shelf life can stretch from a few months to beyond 2 years when refrigerated or longer when it is frozen.
Photos: Grace Fong