I love Asian markets. My friend took me to one yesterday, and walking down the aisles was like a walk down memory lane. They had the peanuts with the shells still on, and it reminded me of when I would sit at the table with my grandpa and we would just crack and eat peanuts, making a huge pile of peanut shells on a napkin between the two of us. All the different types of noodles just made me crave my mom’s cooking, and a good stir fry. But the main reason we went to the Asian store was to get nian gao, the flat, oval, sticky rice cakes which are delicious stir-fried in a simple sauce. While classified as a rice cake, they’re sort of a mix between noodles and rice cakes. This is a savory version, but sweet versions of nian gao are also made for dessert, but tend to come more in block or log form, rather than the oval noodle form used for this dish. I actually don’t really like the sweet kind, but the stir-fried variety is my favorite dish, and something I can eat an embarrassing amount of in one sitting. Good thing I had plenty of friends to share it with last night, or I would have ended up eating the whole thing by myself!
The sauce for this dish is very simple: soy sauce, oyster sauce, a bit of sugar, a splash of wine, and a couple slices of ginger. They all come together to give this dish a lightly sweet and deliciously savory flavor. I love how the sticky rice cakes soak in the flavor, and I love their soft, chewy texture. The noodles are complimented by cabbage, mushrooms, and marinated tofu, although you can really add whatever vegetables you like. This would be great with bok choy, any kind of meat, carrots, and a variety of other vegetables. This is just my personal favorite version.
Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Cake)
Makes 8 servings
24 oz rice cakes, found at Asian markets
19 oz extra firm tofu, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tbsp white wine
5-6 slices fresh ginger
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp olive oil
4 green onions, sliced
1 tbsp crushed garlic
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 head cabbage, shredded
Two hours before you plan to serve dinner, place the rice cakes into a large bowl, then cover with very hot or boiling water and allow to soak for at least an hour, until the rice cakes soften.
Slice the tofu into thick matchsticks, then place in a shallow dish. Whisk together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, wine, ginger slices, and sugar, and pour over the tofu. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the tofu to marinate for at least an hour. While the noodles soak and the tofu marinates, you can slice all the vegetables.
When you are ready to start cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Toss in the green onions, mushrooms, and garlic and sauté until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the cabbage and a splash of water, cover, and allow the cabbage to wilt. The cabbage should reduce to about half the volume. Remove the veggies from the saucepan.
Drain the rice cakes and add to the pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and marinade and stir to coat the noodles with sauce. Heat until the noodles and tofu are heated through, then add the vegetables back in and stir to combine. Serve warm. Enjoy!