A brown sugar sold in slab form is dissolved in boiling water and then mixed with rice flour to make the batter. Too late I realized that this recipe didn't resemble Mom's at all. I started to remember she used white granulated sugar and slowly caramelized it in a pot. Then there was none of that melty, pourable goodness because this recipe had a firm, bread dough-like consistency. It also wasn't a dark caramel brown like Mom's, but almost white. This recipe called for a mere 35 to 40 minutes of steaming, whereas Mom has said that when she was a girl in Malaysia the women would steam it for up to six hours. A little rack like this set in a deep covered pan works well as a steamer. The cake is then cooled and allowed to set. I halved the recipe and made little cakes in ramekins. It's common to slice nian gao, dip the pieces into an egg batter, and fry them up. I prefer to eat the cake plain, probably because that's the way I had it as a kid.
My verdict? It was all right, but not nearly sweet enough, and I say this as a fan of desserts not overly sugary. It was also firmer than I'd like. Joe, to my surprise, said it was "delicious" and that the texture was "right on," and he'd like to try a version where the sugar is caramelized. I'd like to experiment with another recipe as I continue to search for that nian gao from childhood memories.
Happy Year of the Dragon!
To view the recipe, click here.
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