Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Sticky Cake)

I’m down to CNY treat #5 and it is Nian Gao! First things first – I would like to thank Sonia (and her mum) of the Nasi Lemak Lover blog for sharing this traditional recipe. I will treasure it, Sonia!

Nian Gao is usually referred to as the Chinese New Year cake but it’s not like your typical western cake. This “cake” is made of glutinous rice flour, which results in a delicate, chewy (sticky) texture. Wonder what it tastes like? I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of something to compare it to but I’m coming up with zilch! I would like to say it’s like eating something mildly honeyed but that’s not entirely accurate either…you’ll just have to make it and find out. :-D

I actually made Sonia’s Nian Gao several weeks ago but we didn’t eat it until CNY. Having never made my own Nian Gao before this, I totally did not know what to expect. I did get a little alarmed at how extremely soft and sticky the Nian Gao was after its long steaming process but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be (and it did firm up in the fridge). I was also a little worried that the Nian Gao would turn out too sweet but that wasn’t the case at all. Although I did reduce the sugar slightly, judging from the result, I think it would have been fine even if I had used the full amount. In my family, we eat our Nian Gao lightly dipped in beaten egg and pan-fried (kinda like french toast). Delicious!

Glutinous rice flour can be found in any Asian grocery store

The Nian Gao batter looks pretty much like your typical pancake batter

Ready to be steamed



The bottom level holds the water and the next two levels are basically racks with holes to allow steam to pass through and circulate



Overall, I would say I had a pretty successful Nian Gao-making experience except that one of the Nian Gao pans did overflow in the steamer. I’m pretty sure I filled both pans equally which baffles me why one pan overflowed and the other didn’t. I steamed the Nian Gao in a multi-level steamer and the pan that overflowed was in the first level (on the rack directly above the simmering water). I’m not exactly sure what happened (although I’ve got a couple of theories that I’m throwing around in my head) but no worries, I have a year to think about what I would do differently next time. :-D

Note that the two things I did differently from Sonia is that I reduced the sugar by 50g and instead of making my own golden syrup, I used Lyle’s (see below).

500g glutinous rice flour
450g sugar
500 ml water
100g Lyle’s Golden Syrup (We bought ours in a World Market store)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Banana leaves, blanched in hot water to soften

Line two 6×2-inch round cake pans with the softened banana leaves. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, water, golden syrup, and vegetable oil together. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves completely (will look like a pancake batter) and pour into prepared pans. For the full preparation method, refer to Nasi Lemak Lover blog.

When you’re ready to eat the Nian Gao, just take it out of the fridge and slice it thin (about ⅜”). Beat an egg or two with a pinch of salt, dip the sliced Nian Gao into the egg mixture, and fry over medium or medium-high heat in a pan lightly coated with oil. The Nian Gao is ready when it is soft and the egg coating is cooked to golden brown (depending on your heat, it may take only 1 to 2 minutes). Serve hot/warm.

Cooled Nian Gao

Easy to handle once it has firmed up, slice thin (thinner than what’s shown in the picture)

So delicious!!!
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7 Replies to “Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Sticky Cake)”

  1. Hi, Nice to know you also from Malaysia. Thanks for trying out this recipe. I did not make this year as I was busy moving house. Luckily my mom did for me, hehehe.. Happy Blogging.

  2. Wow! You made your own Nian Gao. Well done, Chris! The final result looked exactly how it should be. Yum Yum, one of my favourite CNY snacks. Exactly how it should be done – the French toast way :-)

  3. Sonia,Thank YOU for sharing this recipe -we love it! There are so many recipes from your blog that I would like to try…one of these days. :-Dp.s. Congrats on your new house!

  4. Nasifriet,It was desperation for good Nian Gao that drove me to make my own. :-D This is a great recipe if you ever want to try it.

  5. Hi, Christine! Happy Chap Goh May to you & your family. For your nian gao, you can sandwich it between a piece of sweet potato & yam, then deep fry it like usual. It's quite yummy & not so sweet this way. Happy trying!

  6. Hi June,Happy Chap Goh May to you and your family too! Thank you for the tip – I never tried Nian Gao that way before…one of these days I will. :-D

  7. […] Lemak Lover blog (thank you so much once again, Sonia). You can also find my previous Nian Gao post here. Note that I have since then made a couple of slight changes to the recipe and will list them in […]

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