Nian Gao or Sticky Rice cakes have a delightful gummy, chewy and sticky texture making them so addictive to snack on. Nian Gao are traditionally eaten around Chinese New Year as a symbol of prosperity (Nian Gao means 'Sticky Cake' but sounds similar to 'Year Tall' representing a successful year).
There are many versions of sticky rice cakes all over Asia from the (usually) savoury Tteok in Korea to the popular Mochi in Japan. In China, each province has its own sweet and savoury recipes of sticky rice cakes but I am most used to the Guangdong version which is a simple, sweetened and steamed batter. It reminds me of Hong Kong and has a nostalgic appeal but is, to be honest, a bit plain with simple sweetness. However, I love the texture of Glutinous rice so we have devised our own tea-inspired recipe.
PURPLE POTATO NIAN GAO STUFFED WITH OOLONG FIG JAM
We are ramping up the depth and complexity of the traditional sticky rice cakes with these delicious beauties. They are stuffed with a tea jam which is simply dried fruits blended with strong tea. You could (and should) experiment with lots of combinations of tea and fruits such as Sultanas and Eastern Beauty, Apricots and Dan Cong or Prune and Souchong Liquor. You can use the Tea Jam for fillings or toppings over yoghurt or cakes.
In this recipe we are combining Iron Monk Oolong with soft, dried figs - a bit extravagant but you can substitute with any dark roasted Oolong (preferably a rock Oolong).
Right here we go:
INGREDIENTS (makes 7 Nian Gao suitable for 2-3 people)
115g Purple Sweet Potato (you can use white flesh if you prefer but we prefer purple)
60g Glutinous Rice Flour
7.5g Iron Monk or any Dark Roasted Oolong
1. Peel and chop your potato into 2-3cm chunks
2. Place in a bowl suspended over simmering water and steam with the lid on for about 15 minutes
3. Brew the tea in 120ml of boiling water for 5 minutes and strain off
4. Place the figs in a blender and add 30ml of the strong tea before blending into a jam
5. Place the potato into a blender with 5oml of the tea and blend to make a potato tea puree
6. In a bowl, combine the Glutinous rice flour with the sweet potato puree and a healthy pinch of salt (do not under season your sweet foods!)
7. Using your hands combine and need the ingredients until you have a soft dough adding a little tea if it feels too dry
8. Measure out 30g balls of the dough (you should get about 7)
9. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hands and tease out a circle of tea with your fingers about 3mm thick
10. Add a teaspoon of the Oolong Fig Jam to the centre of the circle and fold over the dough to create a semi-circle
11. Pinch and gather the dough to seal in the jam and make a wonton shape
12. Gently flatten the 'wonton' with the palm of your hand on a plate to make your Nian Gao (try to avoid too much jam spilling out or this will burn when frying)
13. Fry the Nian Gao in a little neutral oil over low-medium heat for 3 minutes on each side and make sure that the dough looks cooked through
14. Place on kitchen paper to absorb the oil and serve
15. You can reheat the fried Nian Gao by placing in a hot oven for 5 minutes
I highly recommend that you pair these Purple Potato Nian Gao with Fig Dipper PuErh!