To a "Higher New Year" in 2023 with Stir-Fried Nian Gao

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By Georgia A. Lewis 邵洛源

In preparation for the biggest night of the Lunar New Year (the eve before new year's day), we have an infused red, hot, and subsequently, lucky, Shanghainese rice cake 年糕 recipe for you Pollinators eager to celebrate the Water Rabbit in 2023 🧧🐇 !

The literal translation of the Chinese characters 年糕 is "year" and "cake," which alludes to a lucky year of prosperity. Another translation for 年糕 comes from the word 年高 or “year high/higher year" when you use the character 高, which has the same pronunciation as the other character 糕. A play on words, or the borrowing of meaning from a character with the same Pin Yin 拼音 (pronunciation) is a way that Chinese phrases get their meaning.  

Recipe Spotlight: Year of the Rabbit Rice Cakes (Nian Gao 年糕) infused with Potli Sriracha and/or Chili Oil

Prep & Cook time: 1.5 hours (4.5 hours if you soak the Nian Gao) 
Serves ~4 people


  • Nian Gao (pre-packaged rice cakes, preferably the oval disk shaped ones for a more traditional Shanghainese look & taste)
  • Chicken/Vegetable Broth (1 carton or 32 fl oz)
  • Bok Choy or Napa Cabbage (6 bulbs of bok choy, or one head of cabbage)
  • Potli 🌶 Sriracha or Halal Hemp Chili Oil (to taste for spice intake capacity)
  • Eggs (depends on how much you like eggs...I personally go for 5 for each pre-package of Nian Gao)
  • Shiitake or Oyster Mushrooms (6 Shiitake or a handful of Oyster)
  • Green Onions (3 of em' chopped up)
  • Oyster Sauce (typically a 1-1.5 tablespoons worth)
  • Soy Sauce (1 tablespoon... but also to taste)
  • Ginger (half a pinkey's worth and chopped up)
  • Garlic (typically enjoy using at least 5 cloves, but you can never have too much...)
  • Sesame Oil (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Oil (a dash for the eggs)
  • Salt & Pepper (the classic duo...add to taste)
  • (Optional) Meat: I used beef! Chicken works REALLY well too, as does a vegetarian option with more mushrooms or veggies added. 
  • Preferably a non-stick cooking skillet


  • (Optional) If using dry, pre-packaged dried rice cakes, pre-soak them in water for about 3 hours or overnight in the fridge. Once done, separate the rice cakes with your hands so they’re not stuck together. You do not HAVE to pre-soak them, but it will make the boiling and cooking process easier. 
  • Whisk five eggs together in a separate bowl. 
  • Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet until hot. Add the beaten eggs. Cook for 30 seconds until the bottom is set, then scramble until the eggs are just cooked. They can be slightly underdone, because you will be tossing them into your hot wok/pot to cook with the Nian Gao.
  • The same can be said about your meat of choice. Cook your meat on a separate pan the way you would like it and make sure it is in strip form so that you can incorporate it into your final dish at the end easily. Set meat aside till finished with Nian Gao.  
  • Add a dash of oil to your nonstick-skillet and then the rice cakes. Stir a few times and spread the rice cake into one layer. Pour in the chicken/veggie broth. Cook over low heat for 1 minute. Uncover and add the baby bok choy or napa cabbage. Cover and cook for another minute, until the rice cake just turned tender and the bok choy is not quite cooked.
  • Pour in sauces to taste (oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame sauce, and Potli sriracha and/or chili oil). Stir and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add back the cooked meat and eggs. Cook and stir until the sauce is absorbed. Serve hot as a main dish.

Enjoy your lucky and high Nian Gao and have the best start to the Year of the Water Rabbit, Pollinators 🤗🌶🐝