Recipe: Nian Gao (Butter Mochi)
Author: Wendy Zheng
Photographer: Angela Fung
Despite having had eight cavities by the age of ten, I don’t think I have a sweet tooth. Desserts other than fruit are always too much: too rich, too dry, too fatty, and most commonly, too sweet. However, one dessert that I constantly find myself craving is my mom’s version of baked nian gao --- a wonderfully moist, chewy, and slightly sweet baked mochi with a variety of fillings ranging from red bean to nuts and dried fruit. Nian gao usually comes steamed or pan fried; however, my mom’s baked version is more akin to Hawaiian butter mochi with its richness from milk and eggs and relatively sparse use of sugar. This nian gao recipe is extremely basic and is easily customizable to any occasion with different toppings (taro, pinenuts, and coconut) or flavorings (i.e. matcha, cocoa powder etc). One batch makes an entire 9x13 baking pan, so make sure to share this decadent treat with friends and family!
Servings: 32 bite-sized pieces, best served warm
1 lb glutinous rice flour
1 cup of white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can of full fat coconut milk
1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
Toppings (Optional): homemade or store bought red bean paste*, sweetened taro jam, coconut flakes, assorted nuts (pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds), dried fruit (jujube, goji berry, raisins, cranberries)
1.Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter. Alternatively, you could line the baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350℉.
2. Combine glutinous rice flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Combine wet ingredients (coconut milk, evaporated milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract) in a separate smaller bowl.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.
5. Evenly pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle preferred toppings. Then pour rest of batter on top of the toppings, making sure the batter is level.
6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into bite sized squares and serving.
Homemade red bean paste:
1 cup of dry adzuki beans
½ cup of white sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
Place adzuki beans in a medium-sized saucepan with four cups of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and boil the beans for five minutes.
Take the beans off the heat and discard the water. Add another four cups of water to the beans and bring them to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the beans for an hour to an hour and a half or until they fall apart easily. Make sure to add water if needed. Discard the leftover water, saving a little for the next step.
Add the sugar and the salt to the beans. Cook the beans on medium high heat, constantly stirring for around 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the beans begin to break down and form a paste. Feel free to add in small amounts of cooking water if the paste seems dry. Allow the paste to cool before using.
(Optional) If you want a smoother paste, blend the cooked beans with a little of the cooking liquid. Return the blended beans back to the stove top and add the sugar and salt. Cook again for around 10 minutes until the beans form a smooth paste. For a finer end product, run the paste through a sieve.