Friday, May 25, 2007

Shanghai Fried Sticky Rice Sticks (Chao Nien Gao)

Note: For a better, updated version (with experience comes improvement), see this post.


This dish doesn't seem to be well-known outside of Shanghai but I liked it the first time Hubby brought me back to his mom's (best Chinese food cook I know). I think most Chinese in Malaysia have ancestors from Southern China and so are more familiar with the sweet brown sticky/glutinous cake that's served during Chinese New Year and so, like me, are surprised when nien gao (sticky cake) is served stir-fried and savory. Nien gao is mochi to the Japanese and ttgeok to the Koreans, both of whom stole the idea from the Chinese, if you ask me. Besides stir-frying it, you can also make a soup dish out of it. Serve Shanghai nien gao with oily chili sauce (Guilin chili sauce is good), or make a sauce with lime juice,light soy sauce and fresh hot chilies-real yummy.

Sticky rice sticks come fresh and dried. The fresh version is smoother in texture. My kids even eat it Japanese-style: just grill it and dip in (Maggi) soy sauce. However, the fresh version is only available when Grandma comes back from Shanghai (another 3 weeks!). The dry rice sticks come in 500g packs and you have to soak them with room-temp water at least 12 hours before cooking.

Dried nien gao being soaked

*500g nien gao, soaked overnight & checked to make sure nien gao aren't sticking together
*10 dried Chinese black mushrooms (shiitake), soaked & sliced thinly & marinated with a little sugar and light soy sauce
*200g Chinese cabbage (wongbok), cut into 1/2 cm slices
*100g canned bamboo (winter bamboo or 'doong xun') is best, cut into thin strips
*200g lean pork, sliced & marinated with salt & pepper
*1/2 bulb garlic, chopped finely
*2 stalks garlic leeks (optional), sliced 1cm diagonally
*salt, white pepper
*msg or chicken stock granules
*3 T light soy sauce, or to taste
*1 T oyster sauce (optional)

1. Put 2 T veg oil in a hot wok and add the garlic, fry 20 sec (do not let it brown) then add the pork and mushroom. Season with some soy sauce. When half-done, add the bamboo and fry till meat is cooked. Remove, add 2 T oil to the wok and fry the wongbok for 2 to 3 min, then add the leeks, season with salt. When veg is wilted, add the fried meat mixture and season with salt and pepper. The veg will give out some water and that can be used in the next step.

2. If you want a less oily version, just add the nien gao to the meat and veg after Step 1, increase the heat, add 1/2 ricebowl of water, and season to taste with the oyster sauce or stock granules and light soy sauce. Check a piece of nien gao to see if it has softened; it should bend over if you hold it. This method will give a starchier dish because of the large amount of water added.

However, true Shanghainese-style fried nien gao is oily, so you have to fry the nien gao separately in oil. If like, season with light soy sauce (not authentic but gives more flavor) and stock granules or msg or oyster sauce (which is not true Shanghainese style because oyster sauce is Cantonese), then add the cooked meat and veg mixture, one or two tablespoons of water if needed and season to taste. However, because this method uses more oil and less water, you should fry this amount of nien gao in two or three batches.

Tell me if you like it!


Anonymous said...

heay mdm...its me nee...been religiously hehe visiting your website..but just in case this does not get through i would not write too much otherwise wasted.

this nien gao thingy looks good and foochow has a similar dish...ask A linda...we called it 'pai wei kang' (white kueh dry) translate direct...will try your recipe out...

Anonymous said...

oooh i can post finally...since i dont have an account i will need to sign off everytime ~ NEE of kuching

Anonymous said...

Hmm A Linda has never cooked this 4 us. do u use the same sticky rice sticks? if u try cooking it shanghainese style, remember to add the seasoning in the rice sticks as you fry it or it'll taste bland. it won't be as bland if you add water and the fried ingredients to the rice sticks because the seasoning will blend due to the water. u know what i mean??

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