Recipe from our contributor Cai Li
This rice cake soup is delicious, comforting and very easy to make. It is perfect for a quick and hearty mid-week meal. Nian Gao (rice cakes), which means “higher every year”, is a squishy, sticky foodstuff made by pounding cooked rice with a wooden cudgel until smooth and elastic, then forming it into cakes that are sliced before cooking. They are chewy in texture, almost like a kind of noodle.
Niao Gao comes with different shapes. The type of rice cakes for this recipe is white and shaped into flat ovals which you can find in most of the Asian supermarkets. I choose to use fresh, vacuum-packed Korean rice cakes which can be used directly from the package.
For the meat & marinade:
- 250g pork loin or chicken, cut into small, thin strips
- 2 teaspoons Chinese cooking wine (click here for homemade cooking wine)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce生抽
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon white ground peppercorn白胡椒粉
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
To assemble the soup:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced on an angle, white and green parts separated
- 1 small carrot, 80g, thinly sliced
- 400g napa cabbage, stems cut into ½-inch pieces and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces) 大白菜
- 4 cups low sodium chicken stock (click chicken stock for homemade chicken stock)
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon white ground peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 450g rice cakes 年糕
- Combine the pork (or chicken) with Chinese cooking wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, white ground peppercorn, corn starch, and water. Marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Preheat your wok until it starts to smoke lightly. Over high heat, add 3 tablespoons oil, add white part of the spring onions, fry till fragrant, then add into pork until the meat strips turn pale and half-cooked.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add into the carrots. Cook for another minute and add the napa cabbage. Stir fry everything together for a few minutes until the napa cabbage leaves are wilted.
- Add 4 cups low sodium chicken stock and 4 cups water. Bring everything to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the thick stems of the napa cabbage are tender. Add salt to taste, ½ teaspoon white ground peppercorn, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon light soy sauce.Sprinkle the rice cakes over the surface of the soup, along with green parts of the scallions. The rice cakes should be resting on top of the soup so they don’t sink into it and stick to the bottom of the wok/pot. Cover and cook for another minute, or as long as it takes to cook the rice cakes through (please see the Recipe Notes if you are using dried rice cakes). Salt to taste again and serve!
Since this recipe requires 8 cups of liquid, keep in mind you’ll need a large wok. If your wok isn’t big enough to accommodate the recipe, you can make it in a large, thick-bottomed pot.
The cooking time for rice cakes can vary based on brand, whether the rice cakes were fresh, frozen, or dried to begin with, and how thick or thin they were cut. Cooking time can be anywhere from 1-10 minutes. Fresh rice cakes cook in a minute or two. Frozen rice cakes can be thawed beforehand or thrown into the wok/pot frozen, though they may take an additional couple minutes. Dried rice cakes should be soaked overnight first and may also take a little longer to cook.
Cai Li Blakeman
Cai Li Blakeman works for Spoonful as the Chinese Cooking instructor. Cai Li was born and raised in China and has lived in Beijing, Washington DC and Singapore. She received her culinary training at the Le Cordon Bleu in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2014. She is also a food consultant and blogger. She shares easy recipes and stories on homemade Chinese and Asian food on the Facebook page #sentosadough and her blog of www.lets-playdough.com.
Prior to pursuing her passion for cooking and culinary education, she was a PR and Communications professional and had held management positions in global firms including United Technologies Corporation (UTC), NEC, Edelman, Johnson Controls and Kimberly-Clark.