24 February 2008

Deep Fried Nian Gao

Lunar New Year may be over but it is just about the right time to enjoy some yummy niao gao, dip in flour and egg batter and deep fry to a crispy coat on the outside; and gooey, almost melt-in-the-mouth texture on the inside. Yum! I guess nian gao is something that is eaten only during Lunar New Year, same goes for Yusheng (both my fav for Lunar New Year goodies). Thus, I tend to over-indulge a little.
Traditionally, the Chinese buy or make this sticky and sweet glutinous rice flour cake to symbolise growth and prosperity (I think). Fresh nian gao is soft and very sticky and people rarely eat it this way. Since young, I always look forward to after Lunar New Year when the nian gao turns hard and mum would make deep fried nian gao, sometimes sandwiched with slices of sweet potato and yam.

This year, I want to try my own ultimate deep fried nian gao! But how? Tried asking relatives, tasted nian gao by different households, searched online recipes posted by bloggers, flipped through magazines... different recipes yield different texture and results.
Finally settled on 5 different batters.
The steps for mixing the batter is rather simple. (Have left out the sweet potato and yam for this batter test.)
  • Mix the flours and egg
  • Add ice water and mix to a smooth batter (not too runny or dry. Mum's way to test consistency - a figure of 8 written using chopstick stays for a while before blending into batter)
  • Some recipes call for oil and salt
  • Cut nian gao into thin slices
  • Dip nian gao into batter before carefully dropping into hot oil
  • Deep fry on low fire until light golden brown on both sides.
Batter 1 - adapted from recipe in Food and Travel magazine Feb 2008 issue.
  • 65 g plain flour
  • 25 g rice flour
  • 80 ml ice water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Verdict: Chewy and slight crispy crust when hot but soft when cold; not fragrant enough
Batter 2 - adapted from Cheat Eat
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 45 ml ice water
  • 1 tsp oil
Verdict: Close to Batter 1 but more fragrant. Crust puffed a little when hot and more crispy but once again turned soft when cold.
Batter 3 - relative's recipe
  • 50 g cake flour
  • 1 egg
  • 35 ml ice water
Verdict: Quite crispy crust when hot but still not fragrant enough. Soft when cold.
Batter 4 - adapted from Club CSC website.
  • 100 g rice flour
  • 45 g top flour
  • 20 g corn flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 egg
  • 110 - 120 ml ice water
Verdict: The original recipe uses self-raising flour and doesn't include egg and oil. During my first try, I didn't add the oil and egg. Crust was super crispy (a tad too hard) and lack fragrance. So I added egg and oil and it turned out better. Crust remained crispy even when cold.
Batter 5 - adapted from knowingfood.com
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Verdict: The original recipe includes 1 cup water but after I added the egg to the flours, the batter was so thin that I added 1 more tbsp of corn flour (original only 1) and 1 more tbsp of rice flour (original only 2) and skipped the water altogether. Crust turned out light and crispy. Still crispy when cold but not as good as Batter 4.
Both hubby and I prefer batter 4 since the crust remains crispy even when the nian gao turns cold. Batter 5 is ok as well, but not 1,2 and 3 as these turn soft and chewy after a while.
But I just can't seem to replicate the same nostalgic deep fried nian gao taste that I remember fondly as a child. Could be the ingredients or the amount of ingredient used. Anyway, I'm happy for now.


  1. Wow! This looks so good. Although I must confess that I've never tried one of these, but it sure looks very good!

    Wonderful photos by the way. Thanks for the recipe.

    Alex's World! - http://www.kakinan.com/alex

  2. Thank you for tagging me. I love your blog and I am excited to look at your recipes more! You have great photos!

  3. Hi alexander,
    Thanks for visiting my blog :) You must try nian gao if you have the chance. It's actually possible to make nian gao from scratch at home, just tedious because of steaming process.

  4. Hi bunbun,
    It's great to know that you like Jap and kawaii stuff as well :)

  5. Hey!

    kinda stumbled upon your blog..gosh the food looks great! i know it's 2 yrs late but can't help posting cos i love niangao too!! we do it by simply wrapping it with spring roll skin (1/4 of the big piece shld give it enough crisp) before frying it..its simple but gosh its fantaastic! haha! Cheers!

  6. There are many ways to perk up your cooking skills: reading great cookbooks, taking cooking classes and good old fashioned practice in the kitchen are traditional methods. But these days, online cooking recipe videos are another excellent resource for aspiring chefs. Here's how to get the most from the cooking videos you encounter. Have to take a glance on www.gourmandia.com...

  7. Loving this recipe so much. I made it at my grandma’s house. The combination of recipes goes well with each other and the taste is certainly admirable. www.gourmandia.ca and www.coffeefashion .com also have interesting recipes that you’ll surely want to try!

  8. Hello. In your batter number four, you have listed 45 g of 'top' flour - is that short for something else? What is top flour?

  9. Hi,
    Top flour is the finest quality of flour by Prima brand. You can find it at major supermarkets. It's good for baking cakes with refined textures like chiffon as it's very light and low in protein.