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Feb 1, 2011 05:32 PM

Name this Chinese bakery item?

Was told it was a New Year specialty, but they couldn't translate what it was. I thought it would be dense and rich, but it's gelatin-y and almost bland; I'll be damned if I can tell what it's flavored with. Anyone?

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  1. That's nian gao.

    Read about it at wiki.

    Sometimes steamed, pan-fried, or stir-fried.

    I prefer mine in the garbage can ... thank you very much.

    Happy New Year !

    25 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Agree with the garbage can method -- it's the worst -- must be an acquired taste (for sure I never did) -- Gung Hay Fot Choy!

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Agree with ipsedixit, not a fan of the Cantonese nian gao, much to the dismay of my very Cantonese family...

        However, I do love Shanghai nian gao, especially in broth. I need to make some this weekend.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Good, more for the rest of us. Yeah acquired taste, whatever. But when you grew up with it and it evokes good times, family, holidays, and red envelops, it's all good.

          1. re: PeterL

            If all I'd ever eaten was a supermarket version, then I'd agree with the posters above. But we make our own, both steamed and baked versions, and even our non-Chinese friends enjoy them when we share the largesse. While I liked nian gao ultra fresh right out of the steamer for the soft chewiness, my favorite is after its staled for a day or two and then we pan-fry to make the slices crispy and carmelized on the outside and soft-centered.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Nope, my mom made it herself (steam version). Her friends invite her over to make it for them. Everybody who likes the stuff says mom's is very good. I did grow up with it, I just never acquired the taste for it....which means more for my brother.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                We made our own as well (both at home and at our old restaurant).

                I still never found it all that appetizing -- be it fresh, day-old, or just old.

                As an aside, did you guys make the sweet or savory (i.e. not sweet) kind?

                Now, if we were talking about another Chinese New Year's pastry, the "fa gao" (or (发糕), then I would be all hands, ears, feet with joy.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  As long as I'm at it, what about this? Since it's cut from what I assume is a cylinder, would it still be considered a type of bao? What would I do without you, ipse? :)

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    I'm having a hard time making that out.

                    What's the filling? Is it savory or sweet?

                    And what's the exterior like -- flaky or doughy (like a bao)?

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Fluffy steamed bao dough, stuffed with sticky rice/barbecued pork.

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        Yes, most likely a type of baozi found in Shanghai, probably a variation of 生肉包 (shen rou bao) or 大包 (da bao).

                        Sorry, that's about as definitive as I can get. Hope that helps.

                    2. re: tatamagouche

                      that actually looks more like a cantonese sticky rice roll than a da bao or a shen rou bao to me.

                      1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                        That's what they called it, but I don't know what the translation is...?

                        You know that your username makes anything you say pretty funny. :)

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          found the sticky rice part which is (lor mai 糯米) but im not getting google to give me the cantonese word for roll, its not bao. somebody with a better command of chinese characters is gonna have to jump in here.

                          well i say random things and im an idiot so...

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Ahhh guen. I tried goon gon guan. i took two years of college chinese (Mandarin) and learning pinyin somehow screwed up my ability to anglicize cantonese phrases and I'm a cantonese speaker. It's strange because I generally have no problems coming up with the pinyin for phrases in Mandarin even though my spoken Mandarin is horrid.

                                1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                  I used AltaVista Babelfish and typed in spring roll to get the chinese character for roll. If you just type in roll, it gives you the verb. I took Mandarin in college and the proctor told me I have a Cantonese accent when I speak Mandarin. LOL

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    i love it pan fried too! sometimes i even dip it in egg first.

                    i tried baked nian gao for the first time ever this year and i really liked the crispy-chewy crust that comes from the baking.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  I like it battered and deep fried. My mom would sometimes put in sweet potato, too. I've only had home made, though, and can't compare to supermarket versions but always thought it was great, not an acquired taste.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    tatamagouche's photo didn't seem to go at all with the wikipedia definition as I interpreted it and what I've pictured, so I need to ask- is it the big extruded rice flour dough bodies I find at the nearby Korean grocery? Soemtimes I see them cut at an angle. Tata's photo didn't look like the explanation and I've wanted to know about the extruded rice flour dough I can't help buying and have no idea how to successfully cook with. Don't mean to threadjack.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      That is a different kind of rice cake. You are probably talking about the savory ones like these:



                      The one mentioned here is the sweet one more like a dessert.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        My favorite savory rice cake is actually rice stick—Korean ddeokbokki. Obsessed with those.


                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I need to learn to cook them because I can't find them anywhere in Denver, that's for sure!

                  2. Mmm...nian gao, sliced, battered and pan-fried. Cold or hot, its greasy goodness tastes much better with a red envelope in your hand and your family around. :o)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: yfunk3

                      Thanks all! Yeah, since brown sugar gives it its color, I wish it tasted more like...brown sugar. But I like Melanie's idea of pan-frying the remainder (which is to say practically the whole thing).

                    2. Yeah I too dislike this very much. Never even got into Shanghainese style stir fried nian gao, but the older generation from my mother's side of the family dug it for some reason.

                      Would rather have the daikon cake, non dim sum and non supermarket version. Gotta have preserved Chinese sausage and some conpoy in it, and I need to be able to taste the daikon.


                      1. Known as "Nian Gao" Literally mean "Year-Cake" That said there are the savory version and sweet version. The version you have is the sweet version. In fact, it is the "Yellow Sugar Year Cake". There is the Red Bean version. There is the Coconut version. I like the Coconut version the most. I love these stuffs. You can pan fried it. You can dip it in beaten egg and then fried it. You can steam it.

                        Anyway, it is subjective, but I enjoy it.

                        1. Lian gao. Can't wait to go home and have some today.