Rising Fortunes for the Coming Year

Most Chinese New Year dishes have names that sound like good or fortunate things. Fish (Yu) is a homonym for abundance, and New Year rice cake (Nian Gao) represents advancement and family cohesion. There has been an endured history for the Chinese to prepare Nian Gao during the Lunar New Year. According to legend, one week before the Spring Festival begins, the Kitchen God returns to heaven to report on a family's behavior during the previous year. A negative report by the Kitchen God means a family will suffer from bad luck during the year to come. In order to ensure a favorable report from the Kitchen God, the custom evolved of feeding him Sticky Cake. Sticky Cake is steamed (as are most Chinese cakes) and made with glutinous rice flour and dried fruit. Traditionally, Sticky Cake is made with a traditional Chinese brown candy that is available at Asian markets (the glutinous rice flour can also be found at Asian markets). Chinese believe that Nian Gao is an auspicious dish that can bring good fortune in the year ahead, both for its name and its sticky texture. In Chinese, Nian is a homonym for both sticky and year. Also, it is made of glutinous rice flour, and features a sticky, soft and creamy like texture. That’s why it is a must at Lunar New Year’s time to wish for a family reunion (family sticks together just as the sticky cake.). Nian Gao also symbolizes advancement and rising fortunes in the coming year, since gao means cake in Chinese, which is also a homonym for rising up. Some say that the higher the cake rises in the steamer, the higher family fortunes will rise in the coming year. Try Nian Gao and may you have advancement year after year (Nian Nian Gao Sheng)! Ingredients: 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour 1 egg 2 tablespoons milk 1/2 cup chopped dates (preserved plums, jujubes or candied orange peel can be used instead) Method: 1.In a small pan, boil water. 2. In a mixing bowl, add brown sugar and stir in boiling water to make syrup. Let cool. 3. Add flour, egg and milk and stir to blend. 4. Knead the dough until smooth, and then mix in chopped sweets. 5. Pour batter into a lightly greased 7" shallow cake pan. 6. Steam for about 45 minutes, or until edges move away from the pan. 7. Let cool and serve in thin slices.