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Nian Gao : Traditional Hainanese Sticky Rice Cake

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Nian Gao (Chinese New Year sticky rice cake) making is a grand affair in my Qionghai village.

On the third day of my stay in my village in Hainan, the weather suddenly turned chilly. It was a lovely 21°C when I arrived, but the temperature dropped to 14°C three days later.

It became so cold at night that I had to wear two sweaters and bundled myself with 4 blankets when I sleep. Also I had to keep the bedroom windows shut all throughout my stay. So funny, right? I live in a country where daily temperature averages 30°C, I couldn’t adapt to the sudden drop in temperature here.

That afternoon when I woke up from my usual nap after lunch, I found the entire family busy in the kitchen. They were making the traditional Hainanese Nian Gao (sticky rice cake) for our ancestor worship.

My nephews and their children were still enjoying their Lunar New Year holidays so it was a boisterous activity with the extra helping hands. The kids had 3 weeks of vacation but they were complaining that their “heartless” teachers gave them lots of homework. LOL

Sister-in-law decided to make a huge nian gao as there were so many family members at home. She prepared more so I could bring some back to Singapore. She used 5 kg of glutinous rice flour.

Making Nian Gao

I watched as she knead the dough …. it was hard work, but my sister-in-law has strong arms despite her advanced age. Her second daughter-in-law helped when her arms were tired.

Only my sister-in-law knows the consistency of the dough and when it was ready, she allowed us to shaped them into ovals for cooking.

We had to use the old wood fire stove as the nian gao was going to be huge. She boiled some water with dark sugar and coconut milk, then she put in the shaped dough to cook.

When the dough floated to the surface, they were deemed cooked. I was offered a piece to taste. My sister-in-law drizzled some coconut sauce over it.

The sticky rice cake was not overly sweet and it didn’t stick to my teeth. When eaten with the coconut sauce …., Wow!! I like the taste of this combination. you could taste the creamy coconut. I thought this was the final product. No.

Sister-in-law continued cooking the dough. Then she used two wooden rods to twist the cooked dough in a clockwise direction. She kept doing it until the mini cakes formed a lumpy mess.

Then her two sons took turns to blend the mixture with the wooden rods until it was smooth. That took almost an hour to get that smooth consistency.

Have a look at this video where my nephew shows how to blend the nian gao :

Phew! This is truly very exhausting. I doubt I could do this in Singapore by myself.

Our Delicious Nian Gao

When the cooked sticky rice cake is ready, they transferred it to a huge basin to cool.

 

Second daughter-in-law smoothen the surface of the cake and smear fragrant peanut oil on it before covering it up with banana leaves.

Two days later, we were elated to taste the delicious nian gao. That is a huge basin of nian gao!  haha….

 

We heat some in the microwave oven. It was soft and chewy, did not stick to our teeth. There was a lovely coconutty fragrance. I think it would taste better eaten with fresh coconut shreds.

 

We sliced some and dipped them in a batter and fried it. The children love this crispy sticky rice cakes which turned gooey after frying, so they had fun “playing” with it. LOL

I prefer the earlier version where coconut sauce was spooned over the sticky rice cake. But the family members prefer their nian gao where the ingredients are all blended together.

This is a fantastic activity where all the family members gathered to make the traditional offering to our ancestors. Our ancestors would be very pleased and proud seeing us united and living harmoniously.

 

传统手工制作海南红糖年糕

海南人的红糖年糕, 叫做甜粑, 是逢年过节祭祀都必备的食物。以糯米、红糖为原材料。

按我们家乡琼海风俗,一到过年,不少农户都为欢度新春佳节而赶制年糕。我们家的红糖年糕, 特别的大气,一次制作十几斤, 一般会用大圆器皿来盛。

我们家古早味椰汁红糖年糕,传统手工制作方式是:

先将糯米泡在水中,第二天将泡软的糯米用石磨磨成米浆 (在许多农村已比较少见了)。后加入红糖、椰汁搅拌均匀,形成糯米粑, 放到椰浆里用柴火灶的大火煮。

糯米粑浮上来就熟了, 再用两根木棍反覆搓, 这样甜粑绵韧性就好。最后装进器皿待凉了才吃, 放一个多月都不会坏。

要吃年糕时,要用细线切上几块,放进锅里煎。外酥内软的煎年糕要趁热吃,热的时候是软的,凉了就硬了。

我们家传统古早味椰汁红糖年糕, 软软的、QQ的,淡淡的散发椰奶的鲜香。那口感绝对是外面卖的年糕没法比的。不能贪嘴哦 。。。因为这个是糯米制品,不好消化的。

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