How to Make Nian Gao for Chinese New Year

  • 01 of 08

    Red Bean Nian Gao

    Popular Chinese New Year dessert Nian Gao
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    One of the most popular Chinese New Year desserts in Chinese and Taiwanese cooking is sweet nian gao (甜年糕). The two most popular nian giao’s are red bean sweet nian gao and brown sugar nian gao.

    Here, we are going to teach you one of the methods used in the East to cook sweet nian gao, which is to wrap the nian gao in dumpling pastry, spring roll pastry or wonton pastry and deep fry it. This will make the sweet nian gao soft, almost melting cheese like in the middle but crispy and crunchy on the outside.

    There are other methods you can use which include coating the sweet nian gao with batter and pan-frying until the nian gao softens or you can pan fry the nian gao on its own. Wrapping them in dumpling pastry is our favorite method for preparing this dessert, partially because it looks nice, and it’s a great treat that you can give to your friends or family during the Chinese New Year period.

    Another popular dessert during the Chinese New Year is turnip cake.

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  • 02 of 08

    How to Make Red Bean Nian Gago

    Turnip cake and red bean nian ago
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    In order to make red bean nian go you need to prepare sweet red beans first. 

    Ingredients for Sweet Red Bean

    • 400 g red beans (soak in water for 2 to 3 hours)
    • 400 g brown sugar (demerara sugar)
    • 1/4 tsp. salt

    Procedure for Sweet Red Bean

    1. Drain the red beans and put them into a saucepan. Add 750ml of water into the saucepan and boil it first. Once it has reached boiling point reduce the heat and simmer for around 1 hour until the red beans are soft enough that you can squash them with your fingers. Please note you must keep stirring the red beans to prevent them from burning. Add more water to the saucepan if necessary.
    2. Mix sugar and salt with the red beans while they are still hot and leave aside for a few hours to cool down

    Ingredients for Red Bean Nian Gao

    • 450 g glutinous rice flour
    • 400 g sweet red beans
    • 420 ml water
    • 400 g brown sugar

    Procedure for Red Bean Nian Gao:

    1. Boil water and add brown sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and leave it to cool down.
    2. Mix glutinous rice flour with step 1 and make sure there are no lumps in the mixture.
    3. Mix sweet red beans into step 2 evenly.
    4. Brush a layer of oil into tin foil boxes.
    5. Use a bamboo steamer to steam the nian gao. You must wait for the water to boil first before you steam the nian gao and if you need to top up the water you must use hot water only. If the temperature changes during the cooking process the quality of the food will be affected.
    6. After the nian gao has been cooked allow them to completely cool down before attempting to remove them from the tins (otherwise they’ll stick). Cut your rice cake into 3 cm rectangle shape cubes and fold them into either spring roll pastries or wonton pastries. Deep fry them until the pastries have turned a golden brown color. Your oil temperature should be approximately 180 C. Please be very careful when you put the nian gao into the oil, in case the oil spills and you burn yourself.

    You can store the nian gao in the fridge for 5 days once it has cooled down or store them in the freezer for up to 1 month. Remember to use cling film to wrap them individually before you put them into the fridge or freezer to prevent the surface of the nian gao from drying out.

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  • 03 of 08

    Preparing the Dumpling Pastry

    Cut the nian gao
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Cut the nian gao into 3 cm long rectangle cubes. 

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  • 04 of 08

    Put the Nian Gao Onto the Bottom of the Dumpling Pastry

    Put the nian gap on the pastry
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Put the nian gao onto the dumpling pastry near the end that close to you. 

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  • 05 of 08

    Begin Folding the Pastry

    Beginning folds of the pastry
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Start folding the pastry as in the photo.

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  • 06 of 08

    Roll the Pastry Towards the Other End

    Roll the pastry
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Roll the pastry towards the other end.

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  • 07 of 08

    Use a Bit of Water to Help the Pastry Stick Together

    Completed rolled pastry
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Use a bit of water to help the pastry stick together so the nian gao won’t fall out when you fry it.

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  • 08 of 08

    Finished Product Before Frying

    Multiple rolled nian gao
    The Spruce / Liv Wan

    Follow this method to wrap as many nian gao as you want. After you're satisfied with the amount you've made, then you can begin to fry and serve or save them. These are a perfect dessert to finish up the Chinese New Year.