Chinese New Year Food: Nian Gao

Nian Gao – literally “year cake” – is a common feature in our Chinese festivals (especially the biggie – Pai Ti Kong). Being a mere peon in my MIL’s kitchen, I get the simple task of un-moulding and decorating so I don’t really know how to make these yet. As far as I understand, making Nian Gao is technique sensitive if you want to get it perfect so that automatically disqualifies me.

Gong xi gong xi gong xi ni...

Still, I wanted to know how it was made so I looked it up. This is the recipe I found from Messy Witchen. It’s quite involved so I suggest you head over there for the step-by-step visual instructions. Given how involved it is, the mere thought of making this fatigues me already…


  • 400g glutinous rice flour
  • 400ml water
  • 500g sugar

1 banana leaf
3-4 round tins (8cm-10cm diameter, 10cm height)
cotton string or rubber bands


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the rice flour and water to form a thick batter-dough. Mix in the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile blanch banana leaf to soften it. Use the leaf to line the tins in three layers. Allow leaf to extend above the tin; this can be folded back around the rim of the tin and tied with string or rubber bands. If you’re unable to find banana leaf, you can substitute with glass paper (also known as cellophane paper).
  3. Pour batter 3/4 way into the lined tins. Then cover the tins with muslin cloth to prevent vapour/water dripping into the cake. Secure with string or rubber bands. Note: I used batik cloth here (make sure it doesn’t stain) or I guess you can use any white cloth or aluminium foil.
  4. Steam over high heat for 10-12 hours, or until Ti Kuih has a nice brown color. Tsk I, myself steam the Ti Kuih with low heat. Remember to add water to steamer from time to time.
  5. Cool and allow to set overnight (preferably for 2-3 days) before removing the tins and trimming off the leaf for a neat edge. Leave aside for a week to allow Ti Kuih to harden slightly before cutting.

There is also a video from Nyonya Cooking:

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