Warning: If you’re on a low-carb diet, feel free to avert your eyes. Otherwise, keep on reading.
This relentless cold spell we’re having inspired me to finally make nien gao for the first time this season. Nien gao — at least this particular version — is entirely suited to winter; I wouldn’t dare make it during the summer, it’s too hearty. It’s a relatively simple dish that I base off my mom’s recipe, but somehow hers always tastes better. Go figure.
Here’s what you need… all these items you can buy at Kam Sen or any other Asian grocery store.
1 lb frozen rice sticks
3/4 lb thinly sliced chicken
1 small can preserved vegetable
1/2 head shredded napa cabbage
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-inch long strips
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sherry
Cover the rice sticks with water and soak overnight. Drain.
Marinate chicken in 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sherry, 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp water for 15 minutes.
Stir fry chicken until loses pink color. Set aside.
Stir fry the garlic, ginger, cabbage, preserved vegetable for a few minutes, then add the chicken and rice sticks. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and chicken stock and mix thoroughly until rice sticks are heated through.
Unlike most stir fries, you don’t need to add a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce; the starch in the rice sticks will thicken the sauce on its own. Also, play around with the ingredients to suit your tastes. Black mushrooms would work well here, and you could easily substitute sliced pork for chicken.
Ready to serve. I like to hit mine with a splash of hot sauce.
A sweet version of nien gao is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year, the stickiness of the rice symbolizing cohesion of the family. I can’t say for sure, but I imagine savory nien gao is an acceptable stand-in. Chinese New Year’s coming up in a few weeks… for the sake of your family’s happiness, give it a whirl! How’s that for a guilt trip?