p Picks and Pecks: recipe: nian gao with coconut

Thursday, January 24, 2013

recipe: nian gao with coconut

It is getting harder and harder to find homemade nian gao this year, since this time consuming recipe is getting shelved in favor of the sticky treat being poured into plastic containers, instead of being steamed in aromatic banana leaves. 

Since it's still two weeks before Chinese New Year, the nian gao at the market is still fresh and soft, so when you buy it, they put it on a paper plate or some study cardboard to prevent it from collapsing. One of the easiest things to do with nian gao when its still soft like this is to roll it in coconut as a sweet snack.

The encasing banana leaves need to be peeled back to expose the nian gao. As you can see here, without the support, it slowly begins to ooze and collapse under its own weight. 

You can buy the coconut pre-grated so that all you need to do is to toss in a little salt. This helps to bring out the flavor of the sweet nian gao.

Then all you need to do is to cut small pieces of the nian gao with an oiled knife or spoon - apparently the traditional way is to do it with a piece of taut string! Then you just drop it into the coconut and roll it around to coat on all sides.

It sounds very easy, but I think it takes a practiced hand to maneuver between the coconut and the sticky sweet. To make it easier, keep one hand clean and use two spoons - one to scoop the nian gao, and the other for tossing. It tastes best when the coconut is fresh and still slightly juicy. 

If your nian gao has been sitting in the fridge, you will need to steam it before attempting this, but be warned that the steam will collect on the surface and make it even harder to roll in the coconut!