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Neen Gow



Neen Gow, New Year's Cake, is the most important cake eaten on New Year's
- the main ingredient, glutinous rice flour, is a symbol of cohesiveness.
The egg-dipped, pan-fried slices have a mellow sweetness and are slightly
chewy from glutinous rice flour. Mama remembers watching her grandmother's
servants scraping the slab brown candy, peen tong, for this cake, which is
the traditional technique. Brown candy is a kind of sugar that is sold by
the slab in 1-pound packages and is also available loose in bins in some
Chinese markets. The slabs are about 5 inches long, 1 1/4 inches wide, and
a scant 1/2 inch thick. The scraping of the sugar is extremely
labor-intensive, so some cooks dissolve the slabs of sugar in water, which
is less authentic but much easier to prepare. Be sure to use glutinous
rice flour here, not regular rice flour!

See the introduction to Turnip Cake for how to serve and store this New
Year's Cake.

3 Chinese dried red dates
5 slabs brown candy (peen tong), about 11 ounces
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
7 cups glutinous rice flour
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 large egg
vegetable oil, for pan-frying

In a small bowl, soak the red dates in 1/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes,
or until softened. When softened, remove and discard the pits.

Cut each brown candy slab into 8 pieces. Place sugar in a heatproof bowl,
pour 2 cups boiling water over the sugar, and set aside until dissolved
and completely cooled.

Grease a heatproof 8-inch round, 3- to 4-inch-deep, straight-sided bowl,
such as soufflé dish, with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, place rice flour. Make a well and stir in cold sugar
water. Knead dough in the bowl, adding an additional 1/3 cup cold water
until dough is smooth, slightly moist, and shiny, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough in the prepared dish and pat until it fills the dish

Cut the red dates into halves and place cut-side down in a ring around the
outside of the dough, leaving a few to decorate the center.

Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. Coat with the remaining 1 teaspoon
oil, using your fingers and lightly pressing down on the dates and sesame

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a covered steamer large enough to
fit the dish without touching the sides of the steamer. Carefully place
the dish into the steamer, cover, and steam 35 to 40 minutes on high heat.
Check the water level and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water.

The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Carefully remove the dish from the steamer and pour off any excess liquid
on the surface. Place on a rack to cool. Loosely cover and set at room
temperature in a cool room until the next day, when it will be ready to

Run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen sides. Place a cake rack
over the bowl and invert to unmold. Flip the cake right-side up onto the
cutting board. Wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate until ready to

When ready to eat, cut the cake into quarters. Cut each quarter crosswise,
not into wedges, but into two 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise
into scant 1/4-inch-thick slices. This is the typical way of slicing a
cake Chinese style. Beat an egg in a small bowl, until frothy. Dip the
slices in egg.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet, over medium heat until hot
but not smoking. Add just enough vegetable oil to barely coat the wok, add
the egg-dipped slices in batches and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, until
golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes one 8-inch cake, about 72 slices.

» Go to Tiffany's Recipe Box
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This Lunar New Years cake got compliments like 'better than store bought'