Chinese Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cakes (Nian Gao)
Last week, on a surprise visit to see family, Mom made a couple of dishes that I normally don’t cook myself. One of them is this Chinese Fried Sticky Rice Cake Noodle dish (long name!) In Chinese, it’s called 炒年糕 Chǎo Nián Gāo.
The recipe is from my Dad’s hometown of NingBo in China.
What are Sticky Rice Cake Noodles (Nian Gao)
Nian Gao is normally eaten for Chinese New Year, as it signifies good fortune for the coming year. “Nian” means year and “gao” means high — translating loosely to “every year, may you reach higher and higher.”
Nian Gao can also mean sticky rice cakes that are fried in egg (savory) or fried with sugar (sweet). The Shanghainese and Korean version (TteokGuk photo) of nian gao is this recipe, where they take the glutinous rice cakes, cut them into ovals 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and stir fry them like noodles.
You can find these rice cake noodles at Asian markets, either dried form (in the dried noodle section), frozen or in the refrigerated noodle section. Mom likes to buy frozen rice cake noodles, as they keep well in the freezer. They have to be soaked for 2 hours up to overnight in water. Purchase either the Korean or Chinese version, they are the same.
The rice cakes have to be soaked for 2 hours (up to overnight)
Dried or fresh Chinese mushrooms (or shiitake), canned bamboo shoots
Mom used mustard greens that she had salted overnight, but I’ve given easier instructions in the recipe to use Napa Cabbage.
and Pork marinated in soy, rice wine, pepper, cornstarch and a pinch of sugar.
The pork is first stir-fried until almost cooked through.
Then add the Chinese mushrooms.
Add in the bamboo shoots.
Then the vegetables.
Season with a bit of soy sauce. Taste first and add more if needed.
Add in the drained rice cakes.
Toss! Toss! Toss!
Pour in 1/4 cup of chicken broth or vegetable broth, cover, turn heat to low and let cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice cakes are softened.
Stir Fried Chinese Sticky Rice Cakes (Nian Gao) Recipe (炒年糕 chǎo nián gāo)
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:15 minutes (with up to overnight soaking of noodles)
Notes on the sticky rice cakes:
They rice cakes should be gluten-free, but please check the packaging.
If dried - soak in water at room temperature overnight or up to 2 days
If frozen - defrost then soak in water at room temperature for 2 hours up to overnight
If fresh (in refrigerated section) - soak 2 hours in water at room temperature up to overnight
Notes on mushrooms
Mom likes to use dried Chinese black mushrooms, as they have much more flavor than the fresh shiitake mushrooms you'll find in the refrigerated section. But feel free to use either.
4 dried Chinese black mushrooms (or 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 ounces pork, cut into very thin strips
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 ounces Chinese Napa Cabbage, shredded
One 6-ounce can julienne cut bamboo shoots, drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1. In a large bowl, soak the rice cakes according to the instructions in the headnotes. If you are using dried Chinese black mushrooms, in a small bowl, soak the dried Chinese mushrooms for 2 hours or up to overnight until softened. If you are using fresh shiitake mushrooms, skip this step.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the 2 tsp soy sauce, black pepper, sugar, rice wine, cornstarch together. Mix in the pork and marinate for 20 minutes or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
3. When you are ready to cook, have all of your ingredients ready. Drain the rice cakes. Drain the mushrooms and slice into very thin slices.
4. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the cooking oil. Add the pork and cook until browned and almost cooked through.
5. Add in the mushrooms and the bamboo shoots, stir fry for 1 minute. Add in the cabbage and stir fry for 2 minutes. Mix in the soy sauce.
6. Add in the rice cakes and toss very well. Pour in the broth, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the rice cakes have browned a little and are softened. The sticky rice cakes will be just slightly chewy (but not hard to chew) similar to pasta cooked al-dente. Taste and add in additional soy sauce if needed. Serve immediately.