Happy Early Chinese(Lunar) New Year!

The Lunar New Year starts on Thursday, February 19 this year, but I think I should give everyone advanced notice so they can start buying ingredients for making rice cake now 😉

I was talking to a friend about really wanting to make ‘rice cake,’ and she (I actually forget who, now) asked, “Do you mean the diet food?” I had to quickly correct her and tell her, no, definitely not the diet food- anything but! This rice cake is made of sticky rice flour, or glutinous rice flour (which does not contain gluten in it, contrary to its possibly deceptive name). Sticky rice is even more carb-laden then regular rice- weee! Like its “regular” rice counterpart, long grain sticky rice is less sticky than short grain sticky rice, and this stickier short grain rice is ground up to produce what we formally call glutinous rice flour. Glutinous rice flour (糯米粉) is used to make the super chewy foods: yuan zijian dui, flat rice noodles, mochi and both sweet and savory nian gao (rice cake). I can’t think of anything else at the moment- feel free to chime in on other uses in the comment box!

I love QQ or “chewy” (for lack of a better translation) foods, such as those made from glutinous rice flour, and I love red bean, so I really love 紅豆年糕。Every year, one of our parents’ grandmotherly friends would make it around the Lunar New Year, and give a “loaf” to us, which was wrapped in plastic wrap and in a brown paper bag. It was the humblest of packaging for a tasty treat made with love.

We would slice the rice cake and coat it in egg and a tiny bit of flour, then pan-fry it until the insides were gooey, and the outside a nice golden brown. Dusted with a light powdering of confectioner’s sugar, this made for a great dessert or breakfast!

Every year since I’ve been away from California, my aunt sends me a package with new year candies and this rice cake. Thank you, Auntie R! I figure it is time for me to make it on my own.

T’s family said that this rice cake had just the right level of sweetness, and had a great amount of red beany taste. Make it, won’t you please?


hong dou nian gao 紅豆年糕 蒸

Red Bean Rice Cake
hong dou nian gao
adapted from Eupho Cafe and Susan

100 grams (about 1/2 cup) red beans, soaked overnight
250 grams glutinous rice flour
5/8 cup packed brown sugar
Oil for brushing the pan

1) Soak the red beans overnight. Add 2 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer with the lid on until the red beans have exploded from their skins, and have fallen apart- about one hour.

2) Measure out the red beans and the residual sandy liquid- you should have 2 cups of “stuff” altogether- if not, cook with the lid off to reduce the liquid to at most 2 cups (don’t have more than 2 cups). If you have under 2 cups when you are done due to evaporation, add enough water to make 2 cups.

3) Add sugar to the red beans and water. Cool the mixture until it is only lukewarm, then add the glutinous rice flour.

4) Line a loaf pan with aluminum foil, and brush oil generously on the aluminum.

5) Transfer the red bean mixture to the pan.

6) Steam the loaf pan in a wide saucepan, or a wok with a domed lid, until a knife inserted all the way through comes out with transparent dark purplish gummy (NOT white or pasty looking). This should take about 40 minutes if you follow these amounts (see note), and depending on the efficiency of your steaming method.

7) You can eat some right after it is steamed, but it won’t be very sliceable.

For serving;
1) After the rice cake has completely cooled, you will be able to slice it to your desired thickness (I like around 1/2 inch). If you find it difficult to slice, rub some oil on the sides of your knife first.

2) Pan fry on low with a little oil until the slices are bouncy all the way through when poked, or no longer stiff. The result will be gooey and chewy insides, and a thin crusty covering! Or, scramble one egg and 1 Tbsp flour together and coat before pan frying. My mom would sometimes dust powdered sugar on the final product, too!

-For an extra little something, add a handful of coarsely chopped dried longan when you add the rice flour.
-You can easily halve, double, triple, etc etc this recipe and pour into different pans for steaming. Just be sure to check on the doneness with a knife. Of course, remember that a thicker layer of batter will take longer to steam.
– I am pretty certain this recipe is supposed to be made with the bricks of golden brown sugar you may see in Chinatown, or with rock sugar. But, Eupho Cafe calls for “light brown sugar” and alas, I can’t be buying so many types of sugar, so brown sugar will have to do.
-You can slice and freeze whatever rice cake you don’t consume (if that’s even a possibility) within the week, to keep it from getting moldy.
-For a steaming hack, place the loaf pan directly in the wide saucepan, pour a bunch of water in the saucepan, and use that for steaming.

1 Comment

  1. Peggy

    Glutinous rice for tang yuan..rice balls with sesame filling? Yum!

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