Monday, December 19, 2011

Stir-Fry Rice-Cakes

2012 is around the corner. Soon after the end-of-year celebrations are over we will welcome in the Year of the Dragon, on the 23rd of January exactly.

During Chinese New Year festivities people like to eat a pudding called in Cantonese “níhn-gôu” or year-cake which is quite chewy and sticky.  
The Cantonese pronunciation “níhn-gôu” (年糕) sounds exactly the same as year-high” (年高).  Hence Chinese people like to enjoy rice cakes during the Chinese New Year festivities as pronouncing the name of this dessert will bring them good fortune (symbol of raising oneself/being promoted).
This type of year-cake is made of glutinous rice and brown sugar giving it a yellow-brownish colour. It is cut into thin slices, which are afterward dipped into an egg batter and then shallowed fried.

There is a second type of rice-cake, the Shanghai-style, which is also named níhn-gôu in Cantonese. The pronunciation in Mandarin “nian2-gao1” of year-cake also sounds the same as sticky-cakes 粘糕 and year-high 年高.
This variety comes in a dried form and is prepared in savoury dishes. It is made of non-glutinous rice flour shaped into sausages and is sold pre-sliced in packages.
You can find it at the supermarket. Once cooked the rice slices become half-translucent and chewy.

Pre-sliced rice-cakes

Stir-fry (sauté) rice-cake / Cháau níhn-gôu

My husband likes to cook rice-cakes himself the way his paternal grand-father used to.  And while we eat this dish he enjoys recalling how his grand-pa, born in Shanghai but whose parents were from Guangdong, cooked Shanghai-style rice-cake for his family when he was small. Here is his grand-father's recipe:
Stir-fry rice-cakes

Ingredients: for 3-4 persons
  • 300gr lean pork, thinly sliced
  • 300gr long cabbage (Napa cabbage), coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly chopped
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 dried Chinese mushrooms (previously washed, soaked for about 45mn in lukewarm water, stems removed and thinly sliced)
  • 1 pack (500gr) rice cakes
Marinade: 1 tsp potato starch, 2 tbsp water, ¼ tsp salt and 1 tsp rice wine

  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup of mushroom water*
  • Salt & ground black pepper to taste

  1. Soak rice-cakes in cold water for 1/2 hour.
  2. Marinate pork with marinade (to tenderize** meat) for at least ½ hour in the fridge.
  3. Prepare mushrooms, cabbage, garlic, ginger and shallots.
  4. Mix ingredients to make the seasoning.
  5. Drizzle oil in a preheated wok. Add garlic, ginger and shallots, and stir fry over high heat for 2 minutes; discard.
  6. Add pork in and stir-fry until brown on all sides.
  7. Add cabbage and mushrooms in wok. Cook for 2 minutes stirring continuously.
  8. Return garlic, ginger and shallots mix in wok. Add rice cakes and seasoning in. Add water (or remaining mushroom water) if needed.
  9. Put the lid on and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

* As usual I use the mushroom water (the water the mushrooms have been soaking in) to give extra flavour to the dish.
** Tip from “Cook like a Master Chef Tips for kitchen novice” by Alvin Liu & Eric Lai

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