Posted by: gargupie | February 6, 2013

Happy Lunar New Year – Year of the Snake…sssss… First project – Nian Gao (Sweet Rice Cake)

P1020021Wow! As if it felt like we have JUST entered into 2013, this coming Monday will be ANOTHER New Year – the LUNAR New Year.  According to the Chinese zodiac, we will be leaving the dragon and entering into the Year of the Snake.  The snake is one of the 12 year cycle of animals based on the zodiac, so if you know someone who’s a ‘snake’, then you can probably guess that person’s age as well. 😛

There are lots of delicious traditional delicacies eaten during the New Year.  Of course, most are not very figure-friendly (well, most holiday dishes are heavy and comfort food anyway), but let’s make a pact that this is just a once a year celebration and anyway, most of these New Year foods are only cooked/sold for this occasion, so consume while they are available!

I cannot believe I got so committed, but I completed TWO cooking project – steamed sweet rice cake (nian gao – a homonym for ‘higher year and growth) and taro cake.  And best of all, I made them both vegan! As my family keep a vegan tradition on the actual New Year day, that means we could eat these for breakfast to ring in the Year of the Snake!

Nian Gao


1/2 pound glutinous rice flour

1/2 cup of brown sugar and the slabs of darn brown sugar that you will find in Asian supermarket.

2 cups of boiling water

White sesame seeds


1. Prepare the wok for steaming.
2. In a bowl, mix the boiling water and sugar until dissolved. Cool.
3. Gradually tamper in the cooled liquid into the measured rice flour. Stir gently.
4. Oil a 7-inch round pan with oil. Carefully pour in the batter. Sprinkle white sesame seeds on top.
5. Steam the cake over medium-high to high heat for 45 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Remove the cake and cool.

You can eat this cake as is, microwave for 5 seconds for a ‘mochi-mochi’ texture, or pan-fried by dipping the cake slices in an egg wash before frying.

I just cannot wait and eat it cold. 🙂


  1. hi, kim! thank you so much for your comment! this cake looks wonderful. i am allll about black sesame these days. for that cake, i quadrupled this recipe
    and then for the frosting i just used a basic buttercream frosting and added a few spoonfuls of matcha green tea powder. you should def make it 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing! I’ve been eating black sesame paste sweet soup a lot lately, hehe. I made mo mo cha cha for Lunar New Year dessert today, too! Happy Lunar New Year!

  2. […] making the sweet stuff,  I decided I needed to make a savory version for balance.  As a child, my first bite on Lunar […]

  3. I always find it fascinating that in China there’s this tradition of steaming cakes. So usual in the western culture! I wonder whether this was developed to save burning material? Baking stuff takes longer and affords more heat, I guess.

    • I think it’s because we didn’t have any ovens back then, so steaming is the way to go. 🙂

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