Sunday, February 10, 2013

恭喜發財 蛇年到來! Celebrating Chinese New Years with Rice Cakes!

It's well known in my family that new year's 年糕 ("leen goh" / rice cake) is my all time favorite food. 年糕 literally translates to "year cake," though not all kinds of rice cakes are eaten on new years day. For the first day of Lunar New Year, Cantonese families will especially prepare a sweet brown rice cake for the celebration. Though it is my favorite food, I am extremely particular about it and will only eat the ones that my Chiu Chow grandmother hand makes. Every family, restaurant, and bakery have their own recipes and preparation methods, which leads to different results in texture and flavor. Fresh 年糕 should be sticky, chewy, and eaten plain, while fried ones are piping hot, crispy on the outside, and still sticky and chewy once you bite into it. This is a very special food for me because I associate it with the festivities of Chinese New Year such as lion dancing, fire crackers, and the multitude of feasts. Though by the time I was in middle school, I was requesting that my grandmother make me a sweet new years rice cake for my birthdays as well! That's just how much I love eating 年糕

For the first time ever, my grandmother taught me how to make my very own new years rice cake. In the likeness of the previous post, this recipe also only requires THREE ingredients. So if you're craving some new years rice cake like I always do, just steam one up yourself! Though it is a very lengthy process, and I can tell you it does not grant any form of instant gratification, the end result is so worth it. 

My grandmother doing work in her kitchen
(notice the circular tin pan* on the left)
Chinese brown sugar bars and glutinous rice flour

Mixing it all up

Frying the sliced rice cakes in egg

And finally, what I've been waiting for all year!

Chinese New Year Rice Cake 年糕
1 pack (16oz) glutinous rice flour
3 bars of Chinese brown sugar (片糖)
Disposable 10" tin pan

1. On a stove, melt the brown sugar in about a half cup of water. 
2. In a large bowl, pour the syrup into the glutinous rice flour. Mix and knead with a large spoon or with your hands.
3. Slowly add room temperature water into the mixture until all the flour is incorporated and it is a molasses-textured consistency. 
4. Pour into a disposable tin pan and steam on medium/high heat for about two hours or until solid. --*I recommend using a disposable tin because even after cooling, the rice cake is very sticky and is hard to remove from other types of materials. I tend to just cut/peel the tin off before slicing the rice cake. 
5. Cool with lid loosely on for ONE TO TWO DAYS. --I told you this was time consuming! But really you can't cut it without all of it sticking to your knife if you don't let it cool properly. If it really does not solidify after air drying, try leaving it covered in the refrigerator. This will make it easier to slice. 
6. Slice into thin (I go for 2x1") pieces and enjoy! OR...

Chinese New Year Fried Rice Cake 煎年糕
Sliced rice cake
1 egg for every ~20 slices
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Spread about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heated pan.
2. Whisk an egg and once the oil is boiling, coat the rice cake in egg and place into the pan.
3. Pan fry until the egg layer is golden brown or until the rice cake is soft.

I hope everyone has some rice cake to enjoy this new years day. Happy year of the snake!
(If you really want some rice cake for yourself today, most dim sum places and Chinese bakeries will have them for sale. Go get some dim sum for brunch!)

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