DIY niangao for Chinese New Year

DIY niangao for Chinese New Year

Forget store-bought niangao. Ring in the Year of the Rabbit with your own traditional Chinese New Year dessert

It’s almost Chinese New Year, so while buying your fireworks (although you’ll have to go outside downtown this year), be sure to pick up a few ingredients to make the niangao -- the lucky glutinous rice-based New Year cake.

Although easy to pick up a finished one at the store, here are three varieties that will definitely add a little sweetness to your Shanghai Chinese New Year dinner table. 

Baked niangao

Shanghai Chinese New Year - bakes niangaoMore of a bread than a cake, this baked niangao is crumbly and delicious.

The batter takes about three minutes to put together, then throw it in the oven (convection or otherwise) and about an hour later, your cake is done.

To sweeten it up, serve with a little honey.


  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tbs baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped jujubes or a can of red azuki beans


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
  2. Gently whisk the oil, eggs and milk together.
  3. Slowly mix in the flour, then the baking soda.
  4. Once mixed, gently fold in the chopped jujubes or beans.
  5. Butter and flour an 8 inch x 8 inch (20.3 cm x 20.3 cm) baking dish.
  6. Pour the batter into the dish and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean (if the top begins too brown too early, cover with foil).
  7. Cut into squares and serve.
Click "Next" for two more Chinese New Year niangao recipes.
For more traditional Chinese new year dishes, read on at "Babaofan: A sweet and sticky Chinese New Year tradition".

Steamed niangao

Shanghai Chinese New Year - steamed niangaoFinally, an alternate use for your bamboo steamer.This incredibly traditional dish is cooked in a bamboo steamer. The cake is sticky, sweet and delicious.


  • 3 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 7 oz boiling water
  • 1/2 cup dried dates (without pits)
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peels
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil


  1. Prepare steamer in wok.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and boiling water until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Combine the flour with the water and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the milk and start to kneed the dough, adding water by the tablespoon if it is not elastic enough.
  5. Fold in the dried dates and candied orange peels.
  6. Spray an 8 inch x 8 inch (20.3 cm x 20.3 cm) baking dish with oil or other non-stick spray.
  7. Pour the dough into the dish and steam over medium-high heat for 45-50 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the steamer and let cool.
  9. Cut the cake into squares and serve.
  10. Top with candied orange peels (see photo).
Click "Next" for another Chinese New Year niangao recipe.
Since you're already in the kitchen, try out some other local recipes. Read on at "DIY Shanghai street noodles".


Stir-fried niangao

Shanghai Chinese New Year - stir fried niangaoStart the New Year off right: with oily deliciousness.Shanghai is home to treats that are oily and fried. Good thing we’ve got a niangao recipe that is all of those things.

This incredibly versatile dish -- you can stir fry just about any vegetables you like -- is a synch to put together.


  • 1 niangao cut into 1 1/4 strips (can be store bought, or used the steamed recipe provided above)
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • Bunch of spinach
  • Sliced carrot (thin strips)
  • 1 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup chilies
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili sauce
  • 2 1/2 tbs hoisin sauce
  • A pinch of Chinese five spice powder


  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the ginger and nian gao and stir-fry until fragrant, for three minutes.
  3. Add the spinach, carrots, and chilies and green onions and stir fry for one more minute.
  4. Stir in the hoisin sauce, chili sauce and five spice, and stir fry for two more minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Since you're already in the kitchen, try out some other local recipes. Read on at "DIY turnip cakes: Where to find and how to make".


Asia food trends in 2015
The fine-dining scene across Asia-Pacific continues to go from strength to strength


great American factory tours
These manufacturing walk-throughs give a glimpse of assembly line magic. And free samples