Savory Sweet Rice Nian Gao for Lunar New Year

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Our family owned & operated Petaluma Grocery Supermarket on Main Street in Petaluma.  Opened in 1941, our extended families became the second wave of Chinese to assimilate in Petaluma after the building of the railroad.

But when it came to celebrating Chinese New Year our families proudly retained our traditions by decorating our homes with red calligraphy banners, displaying pyramids of oranges, tangerines, large yellow pomelos & spring blossoms to represent prosperity.

We would also wear traditional clothing and share special celebratory foods during our New Year home visits called BAI NEIN, worshiping the new year. As a child, in the week leading up to New Year’s day, I loved to watch Paw Paw Hing, my grandmother make dozens of New Year cakes called NIAN GAO which translates to the YEAR RISING.

Paw Paw made the popular brown sugar version and one with savory meats called NAW MEI NIAN GAO. Somewhat unique, she perfected her NAW MEI NIAN GAO recipe which originated from her village in Toi San, Southern China.  It is made with whole sweet rice, Chinese sausage & bacon, shitake mushrooms, dried shrimp & ground pork. It has a wonderful chewy texture ---served sliced and fried crisp on a well-oiled skillet.  New Year customs and traditional foods expand and allow us to share our cultural heritage; we hope you will enjoy our family recipe and the memories they hold.

You will need the following ingredients to make your NAW MEI NIAN GAORICE:

3 cups sweet rice, soak overnight in cold water.

1 tsp salt

1 ¾ cups glutinous rice flour

1 ½ cold water for slurry 


7-10 dried shitake mushrooms, soak overnight in cold water, dice

6 links Chinese sweet pork sausage, dice

1-2 thick sliced Chinese-style bacon, dice

½ cup medium dried shrimp, soak overnight in cold water

1 lb ground pork

¼ tsp five spice powder

4-green onions

Oil for frying 


Soak mushrooms, shrimp and sweet rice separately in cold water the day before.


The next day, drain rice, mushroom & shrimp. Dice-mushrooms Chinese sausage and bacon; slice green onions


Heat a large skillet, add 2 tbsp oil, quickly stir fry drained dried shrimp, this step will remove the “fishiness “from the shrimp and set aside. 

In the same skillet, cook ground pork until brown. add 5 spice powder, add diced Chinese sausage and bacon, cook until oil is released from the sausage. 

Incorporate diced mushrooms add shrimp and half of the sliced green onions, remove from stove and cool. 

Select a stainless-steel bowl that will fit into your Instantpot.

Generously grease your stainless-steel bowl with Crisco, mix together sweet rice flour and water to make a slurry, combine drained sweet rice & 1 ½ cup of the meat filling, add salt.

Use a spoon to check all the edges of the rice mixture by adding extra tablespoons of water to ensure the edges are hydrated.

Cover bowl with foil and lower into steaming rack. Press Manual/Pressure cook-HIGH and set cooking time for one hour and 30 minutes. 

When finished, release steam, garnish with green onions and cool for several hours or overnight, then refrigerate. To serve, cut into ½ inch slices, pan fry on both sides on a well-oiled skillet.

To learn how to make the traditional brown sugar nian gao, please click here. 

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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