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Chinese Rice Cake Stir Fry (炒年糕 or chǎo niángāo) is one of my favourite ways to enjoy nian gao (年糕), a glutinous rice cake sometimes called Chinese New Year cake. It is an adventure in flavour and texture packaged into a single mouthwateringly tasty dish.
The pronunciation of the characters '年糕' sounds like 'year high', and the dish symbolises growth of income, position, children and the general promise of a better year. Hence, it is a lucky food to eat on Chinese New Year's Eve.
Depending on which Chinese region you hail from, nian gao can be enjoyed in many different ways, from steamed to boiled, baked to pan fried. Chinese rice cake stir fry is one of the most popular ways to enjoy it and is eaten throughout the year.
I love the soft, chewy and slightly sticky texture of glutinous rice cake, sort of a cross between noodles and rice (my two faves!). Paired with pork, Chinese cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, this Chinese rice cake stir fry is a complete meal in itself. When I'm in the mood for something sweet, however, I'll make this baked version!
To make Chinese rice cake stir fry, the type of nian gao used are thin and either rectangular or oval in shape. They can be found in most Chinese or Asian grocers and also in specialist shops online. They typically come vacuum packed and ready to cook, or frozen, which will need to be thawed first. Sometimes, you might find rice cakes sold as dried pieces, which first need to be soaked and reconstituted before cooking.
Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients below - it's mostly condiments! If time is short, prepare and chop everything ahead of time, and store the marinated pork in the fridge. The actual stir frying doesn't take long at all.
Whether you make this for Chinese New Year or at any other time of year, I hope you'll enjoy eating Chinese rice cake stir fry as much as I do!