Red bean rice cake (Nian Gao) is one of the must-haves during Chinese new year. This recipe is made from scratch with rice, and it is easier than it sounds! It is a delicious treat of sweet, soft and gooiness with the aroma of red bean(also called azuki bean). We enjoy it by frying it until it turns golden crispy on the outside and drizzle with some condensed milk, it is a taste from heaven.
Everything on the Chinese new year dinner table has a meaning. This rice cake is called “Nian Gao”(年糕) in Chinese, which literally translates into “Year Cake”. It is essential during Chinese new year because cake in Chinese-“Gao”(糕), sounds like “high”(高) in Mandarin. Nian Gao- higher and better every year! There are just too many things being called “rice cake”, making it hard to define what it is. Nian Gao is made with sticky rice, also called sweet rice or glutinous rice(not actually glutinous). It is very similar to the Japanese mochi, but with a slightly harder texture. Even though it’s a classic Chinese new year classic, I still LOVE and enjoy this dish any time in the year.
Sticky Rice/Sweet Rice
The way Nian Gao is made is also almost exactly the same as GLUTINOUS RICE BALL FROM SCRATCH (TANG YUAN) | 自製糯米漿湯圓– soak the rice overnight, drain and remove excess liquid then the difference is that Nian Gao is steamed instead of boiled. The trick to a perfect Nian Gao is the proportion of rice- both long grain and short grain sticky rice are used. Long grain has a harder texture and the short if softer, mixing them together creates the perfect balance of chewiness and texture. Some like it harder- half and half, but I like mine soft and super gooey so I’m using 70% short grain.
Vitamix has become my best friend in all these rice cake making/experiments. It blends the rice into super fine powder. I used to strain the rice milk with my laundry bag but with Vitamix, I had to use something finer so I could catch all the rice flour!(A real nut milk bag) It’s perfect because it helps make the whole cake even, easier to steam without having chunks and different texture in the rice cake.
Beans are generally eaten as a dessert in Asia. (A lot of people in Taiwan thought that refried bean is the weirdest thing!) Azuki bean or red bean is one of the most popular beans for sweets. The flavor is like no other beans, commonly paired with sticky rice byproduct. For some reason, the flavor of red bean paired with sticky rice has become something irresistible for Asians. Nian Gao with azuki bean is especially popular during Chinese new year since red symbolizes good luck!
Besides the common red bean Nian Gao, a simple brown sugar Nian Gao is also popular. So if you don’t have any red beans in your pantry, simply omit the beans and it is still as good!
I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS RECIPE, RATE + COMMENT BELOW OR #CHEWEXPERIMENT ON INSTAGRAM!!!
- 1/2 C Azuki Bean (Red Bean)
- 1 C Water
- 1-1/2 C Short Grain Sticky Rice You can also use 2C and omit the long grain
- 1/2 C Long Grain Sticky Rice
- 1 C Brown Sugar
Deep Fry Batter
- 1/2 C Water
- 1/2 C Flour
- 1/4 tsp Salt
Rice Cake Prep
- Cover the rice with water soak overnight. (or at least 5 hours, this helps with blending the rice finer, especially with cheaper blenders.)For better workflow, I'd start the soaking in the morning before leaving the house. Then come back and blend it, strain the rice milk.
- Blend the soaked rice with water until it's fine and you can't feel large grains anymore.
- Strain the rice milk into a fine piece of cotton fabric, tie it up and place on a rack with something to catch the water underneath. Layer a flat plate or cookie sheet on top of the bag of rice milk then put something heavy on it, leave overnight. This is to remove all the access water in the rice milk, leaving only the rice powder.
- As you strain the rice milk, cover the red beans with water in a separate bowl, soak overnight.
Rice Cake Making
- After 8 hours or more, drain the water the red beans are soaking in and add 1C of water, cook over the stove/instant pot/rice cooker until soft and smashable with a fork. Depending on the method, it'll take anywhere from 30mins to 1.5hour.
- Remove the rice "cake" into a mixing bowl, add 1C of brown sugar and mix.
- Drain the red beans and add the beans to the rice cake mixture, mix well. The mixture should start turning into a liquid like texture.
- Grease a nonstick loaf pan or line one with parchment paper. Pour the rice cake mixture into the pan.
- Steam the rice cake on full heat for 1 hour.
- Let cool and remove from pan.
- Slice and enjoy or fry with batter until golden and crsipy!
- For more rice soaking/draining process photos, please visit: GLUTINOUS RICE BALL FROM SCRATCH (TANG YUAN) | 自製糯米漿湯圓
- A simple brown sugar Nian Gao is also popular, simply omit the beans and it is still super tasty!
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