Nin Gou - 年糕 (Chinese New Year's Cake)

Happy Chinese New Years! 新年快樂! (Sun neen fai lok! - Cantonese)

I'm not a linguistics major or anything, but I'll do my best to romanize the bits and pieces of Chinese in this blog post into Cantonese for those who are unfamiliar with these terms or the Cantonese dialect!

I wish you all happiness, good health, intelligence, longevity, and prosperity! Chinese New Year's Cake is one of the main things we eat during lunar new years in my household (if it wasn't, I would begggggg for it). 年糕 or "nin gou" literally means "year cake", but it also sounds like "year tall/high" (nin = year, gou = tall/high). You may also know it as "nian gao" (Mandarin). Eating nin gou basically symbolizes hopes for becoming a "higher you" or a "better you" in terms of happiness, career, knowledge, prosperity, etc etc. 

Some common phrases I will here during this time of year are:

新年快樂! (Sun neen fai lok! - Happy New Years!)
恭喜發財! (Gung hey fat choy! - Wishing you happiness and prosperity!)
身體健康! (San tai geen hong! - Wishing you good health!)
學業進步! (Hok yeep jeun bo! - Wishing you success in your studies!)
心想事成! (Sum seurng see sing! - Achieve what your heart desires!)

Shoutout to my family for speaking Cantonese to me all my life and my Mom for teaching me this recipe! <3 :D

Nin Gou - 年糕 (Chinese New Year's Cake) 

  • 1 pack glutinous rice flour
  • 2 sticks of Chinese brown sugar (~200g)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp oil
  • dark soy sauce (optional - if you want to make the cake more brown, add a little bit at a time until you get the color you want)
  • 2 Chinese red dates (optional)
  1. Boil water + brown sugar in a small sauce pan. When sugar is completely dissolved into water, remove from heat. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add rice flour. Slowly add in hot sugar water and mix well with a spoon. 
  3. Next, slowly add in the water + brown sugar mixture. Add oil. Mix well. (It should be a cake-like batter, liquidy consistency.) 
  4. Spray nonstick oil spray or rub oil into two circular platters. Pour your mixture halfway into each platter. (It will rise when steaming.)
  5. Using a large pot or a large steamer, fill it with water just below your steaming rack. Heat water on medium heat.
  6. Place your circular plates on top of rack, separating each one with chopsticks (as pictured below; if you don't have a steamer as big as this, you can steam one at a time).
  7. Steam for 2 hours, checking constantly to make sure that water never runs out. (Or you'll burn your pot!)
  8. Check: Poke your cake with a chopstick and if it doesn't stick, you're done! Garnish with a red date in the middle of each cake. 
Recipe for later: Egg Fried Nin Gou
You can also chop up your nin gou into pieces and dunk each piece in a batter of beaten egg. Pre-heat fry pan and spray with oil. Fry on each side until golden brown. 
After the nin gou hardens when it cools down, sometimes I love frying it with egg because it makes the nin gou all warm and gooey like it was just steamed! If you don't like egg or are allergic to egg, you can pan fry without egg and it will still taste amazing! :)

Do you celebrate Lunar New Years? If so, how do you celebrate it? If you try out this recipe, commenttweetFB, or Instagram me and let me know how it went! :)

Enjoy! :)


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