Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to make 'nian gao'

Whenever Chinese New Year is coming, the Chinese New Year Cake or nian gao is a must for the Chinese. Nian in Mandarin means ‘year’ and ‘gao’ means ‘high’. Nian gao has the meaning of ‘Rising Every Year’. For those who are working, it means getting to a higher position every year.

The making of nian gao is quite time consuming as you need 10 hours of steaming to produce the right colour of the cake.

The ingredients consist of only glutinous rice and white sugar. Proportionally, 2 parts of glutinous rice is mixed with 3 parts of sugar. For example, 2 kg of glutinous rice goes with 3 kg of sugar.

Initially the rice is soaked for five to six hours before grinding after which it is mixed with sugar.

The mixture is then poured into metal cylindrical containers lined with banana leaves and steamed with fire from burning wood for two hours. After that, the wood is replaced with charcoal for slower fire for another four to five hours to get the right brown typical of nian gao.

While this is being done, certain taboos must be observed. These include:

1 Don’t comment on the cake.

2 Pregnant women or those on confinement must not be present where nian gao is being steamed.

3 Those who mourn must keep themselves off the place too.

It is believed that if one of the above occurs, the nian gao may not come out as it should be in terms of colour, texture, taste and so on.

a typical nian gao

No comments: