Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nian Gao!

nian gao final
Nian gao always conjures up one memory.  My mom often made one for Chinese New Year (in fact, its literal translation is "year cake") when I was little.  One year I couldn't wait to taste it, and I liked the cake in its molten, not quite set form.  I stuck my finger in the cake while it was still cooling and had a taste.  Not much later Mom yelled, in Mandarin, "Who stuck their finger in the nian gao?!"  See, I was years away from any culinary know-how or common sense, so I didn't know I had left a finger imprint behind as evidence.  At least it gave Mom a good laugh.

1980s Front of house
New York in the 1980s. I'm one of the runts sitting on the wall. I'm not sure which one.

A couple of years ago, I asked Mom for the recipe.  Like so many of Mom's recipes, there was no written form or measurements or timing.  Which means that if she hasn't made the recipe in a long time, it might not come out right because she doesn't quite remember how it was made.  So after telling me "a little of this, and a little of that" over the phone, I tried making her nian gao and ended up with some awful tough thing.  This year I turned to Epicurious.