Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fried Nian-Gao Balls / Sticky Rice Cake (炸年糕球)

Bored of eating the usual fried nian-gao every year? What about this new way of enjoying nian-gao? This is it... I make them into nian-gao balls!

It's great and addictive snack for Chinese New Year. It's crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Max and my mother-in-law was impressed when I serve them this. Max even says "Ohhumm... I'm eating nian-gao like a boss! This is so good!".... this really makes me cracked up!

I fried nian-gao last year (See recipe here). I sandwiched the nian-gao with sweet potatoes and yam. That's the usual way of frying em'.

This time, I don't do it for a party or something. I just did it for our own consumption. And I'm looking into something something that is easy to eat, less messy and can be kept well. So, I improvised my Fried Sweet Potato Balls (炸番薯蛋) into fried nian-gao balls instead. One side is sweet potato dough, the other side is taro dough. Yummm!!!

This recipe makes 40 balls if it is at the size of a golf ball, or up to 50 balls if it is smaller. Depends on how big you want the nian-gao balls be. I got 50 pcs from this recipe.

(Source : Improvised from my Fried Sweet Potato Balls (炸番薯蛋) recipe)

  • about 500g Sticky Rice Cake 年糕 (use hardened sticky rice cake)
  • enough oil for deep-frying

Taro Dough
  • about 220g Taro 芋头 (I use Thai Taro)
  • 210g Glutinous Rice Flour 糯米粉
  • 1 tbsp Rice Flour 粘米粉
  • 15g Corn Flour 玉米粉
  • 65g Sugar 糖
  • 1/4 tsp Salt 盐 
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil 油 
  • 2 tbsp Water 水

Sweet Potato Dough
  • about 220g Orange Sweet Potatoes 橙色番薯 
  • 210g Glutinous Rice Flour 糯米粉
  • 1 tbsp Rice Flour 粘米粉
  • 15g Corn Flour 玉米粉
  • 65g Sugar 糖
  • 1/4 tsp Salt 盐 
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil 油
  • 2 tbsp Water 水

Additional Note : There are readers feedback that the dough is dry. It's very much depends on the moisture level of your steamed potatoes and steamed taro. If your dough is dry, just add more water and oil.

  1. Cut nian-gao into desired cube size. 
  2. Skinned sweet potatoes and taro, cleaned, cut into big chunk. Steam both sweet potatoes and taro until soft. 
  3. In a big bowl, mash the potatoes. And in another bowl, mash the taro.  
  4. For Taro dough - Add in mashed taro and the rest of the taro dough ingredients into mixer bowl. Let the mixer do the work. If you are using hand, mix all ingredients together and knead lightly to form a smooth dough. If you think there's a need, do add another tablespoon of oil to make the dough more smooth.
  5. For Sweet Potato dough - Same. Add in mashed potato and the rest of the mashed potato dough ingredients into mixer bowl and let the machine do the work. If you are using hand, it is the same. Just knead lightly to form a smooth dough. 
  6. Pinch a small piece of taro dough, and a small piece of sweet potato dough (about 1 tsp each).  Joint them together. With both palm, roll and form into a smooth ball. Flattened the dough and wrap a piece of nian-gao cube at the center. Roll into a ball. Pinch more dough to cover the holes if needed.
  7. Heat up oil in a wok, with low fire. Once fire is heated well, put the balls into the wok, estimate about 6 to 8 balls each time, slowly fry until it turned golden brown. This should take about 3 minutes.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.
  8. Repeat the frying process until all nian-gao balls are done. Serve immediately.
  • DO NOT discard the sides of the nian-gao cuts. I didn't waste any single piece of my nian-gao bits. They can be gathered and can be wrapped into balls too. This is how I make 50 nian-gao balls out of my 500g medium sized nian-gao :)
  • When wrapping the nian-gao with the dough, try to make sure that every corner of the nian-gao are well covered with dough. If not, the nian-gao might burst and leaked out of the dough during deep-frying process.
  • If you intend to make the nian-gao balls bigger, the deep-frying time will be longer. To ensure you are not eating half-cooked dough, do fry it slowly under low fire to let it slowly cook in the pool of oil.  
Here, get ready two sets of ingredients for two different dough.

Pinch a small piece of each dough and joint them together. 

Flattened the dough and wrap a piece of nian-gao cube at the center. 

With both palms, gently roll them into a ball. Pinch more dough to cover the holes if needed. And here, you will have taro and sweet potato flavor dough.

You can use one type of dough only if you think two flavor is too tedious. However, I felt that two flavors joint together makes great taste. I love this recipe and I like this way of eating nian-gao. The 'crust' stays crunchy quite long and it kept well too.

If you intend to make them in advance and store them, follow this method :
  1. Fry the nian-gao balls until cooked (pale golden color). Drain and set aside to let it cool. 
  2. Once nian-gao balls are cooled, pack them into a sandwich bag (preferably air-tight of course).
  3. Store them into the fridge if you are eating them in 2 to 3 days time OR if you are eating them after a week or so, store them into the freezer - Thaw it overnight before you reheat it. 
  4. To reheat : Deep-fry room temperature nian-gao balls under medium low fire until golden brown color. Serve immediately. For this step, you can use air-fryer to do the work if you don't want to deep-fry. It's just that the result of air-fry would be dryer and the crust will tend to turn harder.
Since you are going to reheat the nian-gao balls before serving, always remember that you only need to achieve pale golden color on the 1st fry. The 2nd fry (reheat) will then fry until golden brown and crispy.

For me, I prepared the whole batch, I serve 10pcs fresh, gave 20pcs away and and keep the balance 20pcs in the fridge for next time. Deep-fried food intake need to be controlled. This is a great way to prepare your nian-gao balls in advance. Just re-heat it before you bring them to the party as part of the party snacks. I'm sure your family and friends will love it.

This new way of eating nian-gao will definitely change the way you feel about eating sticky rice cake during Chinese New Year! Do give this auspicious traditional food a try! :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Superior Chicken Stock (鸡上汤)

When it comes to festive season that requires lots of cooking, I will prepare this. The broth produced by these simple ingredients could give you full flavor in almost every Cantonese cooking.

It's magical!

Some people called it superior stock, some called it chicken stock, some called it gou-tong (高汤) and some called it sheung-tong (上汤). Whatever. As long as you have this pot of goodness in your kitchen to standby, I bet you will be able to cook up some good Chinese food! :)

I shall cut this post really short. The trick is to use a good chicken and DO NOT opt out chinese ham. This ham gives the soup the superior taste!

  • 1 Kampung Chicken, preferably old hens (老母鸡)
  • 150g Chinese Ham (金华火腿) ** See Note
  • 2 to 3 Chicken carcass (鸡骨/鸡壳)
  • 15g Ginger, sliced (姜)
  • 3 parts Spring Onions, white part only (葱)
  • 4L Water
Note : You will have to prepare chinese ham in advance. When you purchase your chinese ham from the shop (usually shops that sells dried seafood), please ensure that you are using only the meat part. Those outer layer (skin and the dark surface part) need to be removed. Wash and blanch the ham with hot water to remove the oil. Put the ham into a bowl of hot water. Put two slices of ginger into the bowl. Steam the bowl of water with ham and ginger for 45mins or upto 1 hour. This is the preparation you need to do. If not, you will find that the chinese ham doesn't taste as pleasant as you expect. I always did mine way in advance. Steamed ham can be well kept in the freezer for 3 months or more. Try to prepare at least 400 grams at one time. If not, you waste your gas for steaming it for 1 hour. Hahaha...  When you need to use it, just take it out for your soup.

  1. Clean chicken, and chicken carcass. You don't have to cut them into pieces. Just leave it whole. 
  2. Prepare ginger and spring onions accordingly.
  3. Using a big pot, put in all the ingredients and pour in 4L water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Scoop away the scums that float up, but do not scoop away the chicken oil. Those are flavors. 
  5. Let the soup boil for 10mins, and reduce to very low fire to let it slowly simmer for at least 4 hours.
  6. Once the soup is cooked for 4 hours, let it cool abit. Strain the liquid and discard all the soup ingredients, and keep only the broth. 
This is the result after 4 hours. It may looked pale and unattractive. But I tell you, this is magic broth for all Chinese cooking! I use this broth for stir-frying - noodles, vegetables, seafood. I use it to braise my mushrooms, radishes and alot more!

Divide the broth with plastic bags or small containers into portions. Remember to well seal them and air-tight. Freeze away. If you need to use them, just take it out, thaw and you have superior chicken stock!

You totally don't have to use any MSGs for your cooking!

Give it a try :)