For Chinese New Year's Dinner (January 23, 2012), I made several dishes. The most traditional is to eat Chao Nian Gao for good luck because of increasing prosperity. My previous post was about Nian Gao, the sweet dessert. Chao (炒) means to cook (or to stir fry). Nian refers to the stickiness of the rice. This type of Nian Gao consists of oval slices of rice cake, commonly referred to as ovalettes. The closest thing that Nian Gao can be described as is Chinese gnocchi. These bags can be found in the refrigerated or frozen section in Chinese or Korean Supermarkets.
My Chao Nian Gao is less oily and less salty than that of Chinese Restaurants.
This is the advantage to cooking at home. (You can vary the vegetables and meat. Usually, it is made with mustard greens and shredded pork but I like to use cabbage. Some people like their nian gao with fish cake or dried shrimp instead of pork.)
Chao Nian Gao
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
24 ounce bag of Nian Gao (Oval Rice Cakes)
8 pieces of Napa Cabbage (roughly)
5 shittake mushrooms (5 - 8)
6 ounce bamboo shoots
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp cooking wine
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 lb of ground pork
1 tsp sesame oil (or oil of your choice)
1/4 cup of chicken broth
fresh ground pepper
Soak the oval rice cakes for at least two hours by placing it into a bowl with water. (If you buy it from the refrigerated section, there is no need to soak them.)
Meanwhile, wash your vegetables. Slice your napa cabbage, shittake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the following: 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp cooking wine, 1 tsp sugar, and some fresh ground pepper. This will be the marinade for the ground pork. Next, put the ground pork and marinade together. Mix well. Keep the pork in the marinade for about twenty minutes.
In a huge frying pan (on medium heat), heat about 1 tsp of sesame oil. Toss in the minced ginger to lightly brown. Empty to bowl of ground pork in marinade into the pan. Cook the ground pork.
Once the ground pork is cooked, add the big bowl of vegetables (Napa Cabbage, shittake mushrooms, bamboo shoots) into the pan. Keep mixing the ground pork with the vegetables. Drain the oval rice cakes. Add the oval rice cakes to the pan with a fourth cup of chicken broth. Sprinkle white pepper to taste. Stir fry everything together. It takes approximately five minutes to stir fry the oval rice cakes al dente. It should be soft but not mushy similar to cooking pasta.
Tip: I like to add hot sauce (Yank Sing Chili Pepper Sauce) to my Chao Nian Gao.