Chinese New Year is a hopeful holiday. There’s no resolutions to make and then break, just things to do now to set yourself up for a better year. On the traditional to-do list is to make a Prosperity Cake. With durian, of course, because more durian makes a better year, right?
Nian Gao is a traditional sticky rice cake eaten on the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar in most countries in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, it’s called Kuih Bakul.
The cakes symbolizes growth in all facets of life, whether in your business, your happiness, or the simple things like children growing and crops thriving.
They also happens to be vegan and gluten-free. Those ancient Chinese were really wise.
Because it’s made of rice flour, the cake is slightly translucent and has a gummy, mochi-like texture. In ancient times, it was flavored with almonds, but these days you can use just about anything. Coconut milk is really common. Durian — well, maybe less so — but it’s definitely a thing. I’ve followed a Malaysian recipe that I found on the internet so long ago I’ve actually forgotten where.
So sorry about the lack of credit.
The durian-ness is pretty mild but is definitely present. Those who do not like durian will not like this cake, but those of us who do — well, it’s pretty awesome.
Nian Gao is made by steaming the batter, not baking it, because as I’ve mentioned before on this blog ovens are few and far between in tropical kitchens.
Until this point in my life, I had never attempted to steam a cake. It sounded tricky. It sounded like I might easily burn something.
It was a chance for growth.
Like most things that are intimidating, the process was much easier than I expected. Here’s how to make your own lucky durian cakes for the Chinese New Year.
Watch the video:
Click below to watch me make Durian Nian Gao in my Airbnb‘s kitchen, or scroll down to read the ingredients.
Durian Nian Gao Recipe
- 1/2 cup durian
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
- 1 cup water
- Hope for the future
1. Boil the 1 cup of water and add the oil and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Remove from heat and add the durian flesh, whisking until mostly smooth. You can fish out extraneous durian fibers with a fork.
3. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
4. Add rice flour and stir until the batter is thick and smooth, sort of like this:
5. Pour batter into a round glass or metal baking dish, several cupcake-size containers, or be sketchy like me and find any handy container that will survive being boiled for an hour.
6. In a large pot, add water until it’s about 1 1/2 inch deep.
7. Place your “cake molds” in the pan. Cover with a towel under the lid to absorb the steam and prevent condensed water from dripping down onto the cakes.
8. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour.
9. Remove the “molds” from the pot and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before attempting to remove cakes from their molds.
10. Decorate, and place on a red plate or platter.
Celebrate, because you just successfully made a steamed cake! Can you taste the growth?