Sunday, November 04, 2007

niangao (年糕) with X.O sauce


1 bag of fresh or frozen sliced nian gao
4 tbsp XO sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soya sauce
4 tbsp Xiaoxing wine
1 large red chilli
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cabbage, shredded
1 lemon, juice only
1 cup of black fungus, hydrated and diced
2 cups pork leg strips


1. Thinly shred the pork into longish strips. mince the garlic and shred the cabbage and fungus.

2. Heat some oil in a pan, and drop in the pork and cabbage. Stir fry these to get some colour, then add the rest of the ingredients. Put some water on the boil at the same time. When the cabbage and pork is cooked through and the sauce is thickened, turn the heat off. Boil the rice cakes for about 4 minutes (from fresh) and maybe 10 from frozen. Drain and add to the sauce.

3. Stir fry this together until the sauce has thickened and coats the rice cakes. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and serve with more fresh chilli on top. Eat straight away, they do get chewier as they cool. Admittedly, because I'm a die hard XO fan, i drizzled a bit more XO on top after cooking.

Snapling on Rice Cakes:

Venture outside of the Western perception of the Rice Cake- thin, styrofoam flavoured discs of puffed rice- and embrace the ooey, gooey, and chewy goodness of the East-Asian rice cake. The epitome of Asian comfort food, and the king of the rice noodle, get to your local Chinese, Japanese or Korean grocer and try something totally different. It’s been around for centuries!

Rice cakes are numerous in colour, flavour, size and purpose - although it is eaten every day in soups, stews and stir-fries, many varieties are made specifically for special ceremonial or superstitious purposes. For example in Korean culture, songp’yeon are rice cakes steamed with pine needles that drive away evil spirits- this is sometimes made as an offering to the family ancestors. In the olden days special rice cakes (dung duk) were offered to ‘toilet ghosts’ to deter them from ‘eating’ the children- who were small enough to fall into the traditional Korean facilities. Historic Japanese folklore dictates that there are rabbits living on the moon making rice cakes- a result of observing the silhouette of a rabbit in the dark patches of the moon. Regardless what belief, rice cakes have an important culinary and cultural significance in East-Asian culture. Tell you what, they’re damn tasty too.

All rice cakes whether they be Chinese (niangao), Japanese (mochi) or Korean (duk) are made from glutinous white rice, which has been pounded with water into a sticky dough, then molded or sliced into different shapes. There are both savoury and sweet rice cakes- the ones in this recipe are the plain savoury variety that are used in soups or typically in a fantastic Korean dish called Duk Bokee; where they are stewed in fermented chili paste (gochujang) with vegetables. To a layman they could be described as big, chewy, white noodles cut into manageable 2-3 inch pieces. Although Duk are wonderful in soups and stews, the texture from crisp-frying them is totally addictive. (see below)

Thin-sliced niangao is a type of savoury rice cake is the more universally accepted variety- spanning across China, Japan and Korea. In Korea it’s used more as the starch component to joongol (soups), whereas in China more specifically the Shanghai style it is served up pan-fried or braised. It is eaten by the million at New Years. The XO sauce in the recipe is made from a base of dried, shredded salmon, chilli and oil- and all the ingredients listed are available in most Chinese food stores in the fridge or on the shelf.

sources: Wikipedia "rice cake" and much also from life experience.

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