Thursday, 15 February 2007

Nian Gao - Chinese New Year Cake

With Chinese New Year almost upon us, we decided to embrace our Chinese brethren and make a traditional Chinese New Year Cake, ‘Nian Gao’. The mighty search dragon Google provided us with a plethora of recipes to choose from. Traditional chinese recipes involve hours of steaming followed by frying individual slices. Intimidated we pussied out and went for the baked option, which we believe to be a crucial mistake; we had started with an intrinsically flawed recipe.

We scoured the supermarkets in Chinatown to find the appropriate ingredients, with Azuki ‘red’ beans seeming to be almost as elusive as the green prawns described in a previous recipe. A kind, charitable lady shopping in Woo Sang's pointed us in the right direction. Furnished with a £0.70 bag of of dried azuki beans, some glutinous rice flour, sugar and baking powder, we returned home triumphant.

We set to work - the red beans needed to be simmered for at least an hour in sugar and water, to make a red bean 'paste' and to be frank, this was another big mistake, red bean paste (readily available in most Chinese Supermarkets), would have saved us a lot of time. Whilst I gave the beans a good pasting, my colleague started work on the batter...

For the batter we began by whisking, with a fork, (unfortunately, neither of us count a whisk amongst our possesions), the egg whites for what seemed like pretty much enough time for the next Chinese New Year to roll by. With this arduous task completed, with sore hands and wrists (but triumphant hearts and souls), we slowly added the glutinous rice flour, the milk, sugar and baking powder to the egg whites. With this our batter was complete.

Unfortunately, whilst our bean paste ended up looking rather pro - and tasted good, the batter ended up looked much more like Yorkshire pudding batter than anything oriental. The cake too, when finished, had more than a hint of England's finest battered dish about it...we, however, blame the wack recipe...

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