Stir fried rice cake 炒年糕

A late Chinese New Year to all! This is the year of the dragon. 

祝大家龍年快樂, 事事如意, 行好運發大財!!!

年糕 'nian gao' or rice cake is eaten by many during this festive season. Nian gao is auspicious because it rhymes with the lucky phrase 年高 (also read as 'nian gao') or 年年高升 'nian nian gao sheng', roughly translated to English as 'achieving advancements/promotions year after year'.

There are mainly two types of Chinese New Year's rice cakes. The sweetened rice cake, in a round or rectangular block, which is usually made with glutinous rice flour is eaten mainly in Southern China like the Cantonese. This sweetened rice cake is very chewy like chewing a piece of rubber but yummy nonetheless IMO, for recipe see this post. The northerners' rice cake does not look like a cake but slices/sticks of white tasteless stodgy pieces, sold dried or semi dried in vacuum pack, made with normal rice. Plain rice cake/sticks are normally stir fried with vegetables and/or meat/seafood like this.

In Korea, their rice cakes are very similar to the Chinese plain ones. I think many of you will recognise 'ddukbokki' cooked in a chilli sauce? Korean's New Year is the same as Chinese, they also have auspicious rice cake recipe like this rice cake soup.

Japanese have plain mochi blocks which are sold semi dried, they are normally chargrilled/bbq till puffed up then coated or dressed with a sauce before serving, this grilled cake is called yakimochi (yaki is grill and mochi is rice cake)

Today's recipe is how to stir fry plain rice cakes. I normally buy the semi dried vacuum pack, see this post, mainly because I didn't have good experience with dried sticks before. When I was in London few weeks ago I bought several packets of the dried sticks determine to have a go again. Cook it couple of times now and I LOVE it. Will keep this as cupboard staple from now. The vacuum pack does not keep for very long in the cupboard it will go mouldy, yuk! Dried sticks are more handy will keep up to a year and I can use as much as I like unlike the vacuum pack which will go bad quickly once opened.

I now know how I got it wrong before with the dried stuff, i.e. they must be soaked for a very long time like overnight to 24 hours before cooking. If not they will not cook through easily and by the time they are stewed and softened on the inside the outside surface will be too gloppy and slimy. The next step is to boil them for few minutes before adding to the stir fry mixture.

If you never have this plain rice cake before, it does not have any taste it will absorb any flavour you add to it. The texture is similar to wide rice noodles or hor fun, soft and slippery on the outside surface but when you bite into it, it is much much more chewier than wide rice noodles.

**Dried rice cake will expand to about 1.5 its original size when soaked and 2x it's original size when cooked.

Here is the tried and tested recipe my way. Recipe will feed two.


about 300g of dried rice sticks (see picture above), in Chinese they are called 白粿干 ‘bai guo gan'

about 10 -12 peeled raw king prawns, defrosted if frozen
about 5 - 6 Chinese fish balls (optional if you have some), defrosted if frozen
1 small piece of pork, cut into thin slivers (or beef if you don't eat pork)
2 - 4 leaves of Chinese cabbage/Chinese leaf/napa cabbage (2 leaves if the head of vegetable is large), sliced (about a large hanful after cutting)
1 - 2 stalks of pak choi, sliced and separate the green from the white stems
4 - 5 shitake or Chinese mushrooms, soaked and sliced
2 - 3 stalks of spring onion, sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small piece of ginger, chopped or shredded

some soy sauce
few tbsp oyster sauce
some cornflour
a little sesame oil
a little ground pepper
a little cooking wine
some cooking oil

On the large plate are seasoned pork, fish balls, prawns, pak choi, Chinese cabbage and shitake mushroom. Behind on the right is soaked rice cake and left are spring onion, ginger and garlic

Prep and cooking method:

  1. Soak the dried rice sticks overnight for at least 10 hours or up to 24 hours with cold tap water. 
  2. Prepare the meat, seafood and vegetables. You don't have to follow my list of ingredients, you can use anything you like, like fried tofu pieces, brocolli, bean sprouts, fresh button mushrooms, sugar snap peas, sweet pepper, beef, belly pork etc....You can use black bean sauce if you like instead of oyster sauce. 
  3. Marinate the pork with a little soy sauce, pinch of pepper, few drops of sesame oil and a little cornflour. Mixed and leave aside for a little while. 
  4. For the King prawns and fish balls if using frozen and you forgot to defrost in advance, soak in water till defrosted. Give it a squeeze to remove excess water. You can score the back of the prawn so it will roll up like a ball when cooked. 
  5. For the mushrooms if you don't have time to soak, put them in a cup with water and microwave for few minutes, stirring few times in between. When totally softened, rinse and cut. 
  6. Heat a pot of water till boiling. Add the soaked rice sticks and few drops of oil. Gently stir to prevent the rice sticks sticking together. When the water come to a boil again check if the rice sticks are softened and pliable, it is time to remove them. Rinse under cold water then soak in some cold water while stir frying the other ingredients. Soaking in water in the last step is to prevent them from sticking together. 
  7. Heat the wok with a little cooking oil. When almost smoking, add pork and give it a few stir, then add in the prawns and fish balls. Stir/fry till meat and prawns are cooked and slightly caramelised. Stir in a little cooking wine. Remove and set aside. 
  8. Using the same wok without rinsing add a touch more oil, add in half the spring onion, ginger and garlic, stir fry till fragrant. 
  9. Add in the mushroom, stir then add in the Chinese leaf. Stir till heated through.
  10. Add in 1 cup of water (you can use the mushroom soaking water). Let the liquid come to a boil. Add the white part of pak choi, stir and when heated through add the rice cake.
  11. Stir gently and cook till everything is softened and heated through. 
  12. Season with 2 - 3 tbsp oyster sauce, dash of light soy, few drops of sesame oil and pinch of pepper. 
  13. The sauce will be reduced and thickened by the rice cake as it cooks. 
  14. Finally add in the green part of pak choi, the precooked meat and seafood and the remaining spring onion. Stir till just heated through. 
  15. Ready to serve. 


  1. Happy new year! I've had 年糕 in hotpot/steamboat and have been meaning to try them in stirfries — must get some more and try your recipe.

  2. I love Bak Kuih...I am surprised that you being a non Foochow can cook this so well. And I being a Foochow often fail to cook this dish as well as my grandmother...There is indeed a secret Q to the cooking!!

    Thanks for the recipe. Have a great week ahead..We are now into our first semester break. so lots of parents are taking their children out to dine!!

  3. this recipe is good although I never thought of the that. Can't imagine the taste but I will try it for myself to know if that could be a good food for my brothers birthday. thanks for the recipe.

  4. Zarah @Fotont (Twitter)11 April 2012 at 15:42

    I just read the whole blog, and I just got one thing to say: Please, please, PLEASE don't stop blogging! I love this.

  5. I love this blog site, finally some authentic chinese recipes in English! I'm going to try your 'dou fu fah' recipe tomorrow.. See how it goes!

  6. This looks beautiful and healthy foods, Thanks for sharing.
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  7. I've lost count of the number of times I've looked up your blog for dinner ideas - not one recipe has been a dud! Please consider reviving your blog; or at the very least, leave it out there for amateur cooks like me to keep referencing. And thank you too :)


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