CNY series: On the thirteenth day of New Year…nian gao

On the thirteenth day of New Year my mama said to me

13. Nian gao

Nian gao is sticky rice pudding that has been mixed with sugar, Chinese dates, chestnuts and wrapped in lotus or banana leaf (depending on which country one is in). The item is usually offered to the kitchen god (to those who practise such beliefs) in the hope that the stickiness would cause the mouth of the god to be sticky and limit its report to only the good and leave out the bad when it visits heaven.

The words also sound like ‘every year go up’ or being promoted every year. The pudding is eaten either steamed or sliced and fried with an egg batter. When I was young, I looked forward to eating the fried version as I liked the crunchiness of the egg batter outside and the sticky gooey taste on the inside. I do not seem to see this a lot in Singapore generally, e.g. in supermarkets and shops, except maybe in Chinatown. I used to eat this only once a year. This is eaten by the Chinese in several countries and is not unique to this region.

Malaysia Boleh, #03-28 Jurong Point 2, 63 Jurong West Central 3. The stall that sold the nian gao pieces was located near the entrance.

Photo courtesy of a friend.

A piece of nian gao coated with batter and fried. It was crunchy on the outside and sticky on the inside. As this was commercially sold as a snack, it seemed overfried in oil that had been used for frying many times over. It was crunchy but not the best way to eat this (because of the oil) though some people like this because of the extra crunch. Some people eat nian gao between fried yam and tapioca slices. Home-fried nian gao the way I used to have it growing up is still the best.

This pic is contributed by a friend in Hong Kong. The nian gao slices are lightly coated with egg batter and fried. This is the home-fried version.

My same friend in Hong Kong decided to try frying the nian gao again a second time as it was a little light the first time. This time, it is perfect! It looks just like the way I used to have it when I was growing up. Some things do not change and that’s nice to know in a time and age where change has become a constant.



One thought on “CNY series: On the thirteenth day of New Year…nian gao

  1. Pingback: An initiation into nobility | Sudah makan? Have you eaten?

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