Gung hay fat choy (congratulations and be prosperous)! Today is Chinese New Year, the start of the Year of the Ox.
I’m very pleased with myself, because this is the first year in a long time that I remembered the holiday before it happened, and was able to stock up on a few traditional New Year foods and snacks to celebrate the day.
New Year was the primary Chinese cultural tradition my family practiced. I vividly recall large gatherings of family and friends, vast amounts of delicious Chinese food, receiving money in red envelopes from grandparents, and the traditional lion dance and firecracker celebration. Chinese really do know how to ring in their New Year.
Another memory I have is the nian gao, the sticky rice cake dessert traditionally served during Chinese New Year. Nian gao is given to family and friends; the stickiness is believed to symbolize the holding or binding together of family. Also, because of its round shape and sweet taste, it is said to bring good fortune and sweetness to one’s life.
Nian gao is traditionally steamed for 4-5 hours, but there are also the baked and microwaved varieties. I used a quick, microwaved version from my mother. It was so simple to make – just mix the ingredients, and pop in the microwave! Surprisingly, this gao had just the right taste, color and consistency, and reminded me of the dessert I grew up with.
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 cups water, boiling
1 pound mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
1 12-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
sesame seeds, toasted
Dissolve brown sugar in boiling water. Stir in mochiko gradually. Add coconut milk and oil, and beat to smooth out ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased 8-cup microwave dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 18 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let stand uncovered for about 30 minutes. Pull gao from sides of dish and invert onto a platter.