#54 Nian gao is called tikoy in the Philippines
Some thoughts about the Lunar New Year, and a list of favorite Chinese dishes
Ten days before the Lunar New Year and you can’t escape the frenzy. Go to the grocery and there are stacks and stacks of nian gao in different flavors, shapes and sizes. Go online and it’s the same. On Instagram, especially. Food purveyors are selling Chinese food galore. Cooked food ready for the dinner table.
We’re not Chinese. But we do love Chinese food. Or, at least, what we call Chinese food which is more Filipino-Chinese than authentic Chinese. As an aside, is there such a thing a “pure” cuisine anyway?
We don’t celebrate Chinese holidays. But I have to admit that there was a time when, at the height of my DSLR camera craze, it was my fervent dream to check in to hotel in Chinatown a day or two before the Lunar New Year just so I could take photos of the dragon dance on the street. But the dream faded (to be honest, I hate crowds). I still feel thrilled though when friends from the Filipino Chinese community send food gifts — mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival and nian gao for the Lunar New Year.
Nian gao is sticky rice cake. Tikoy to us Filipinos. According to Chinese custom, you don’t buy it — you have to receive it as a gift for it to work as a lucky charm.
As a child, when I was old enough to stand on a stool to get a view of the stovetop, I’d watch my grandfather dip slices of tikoy in beaten eggs before frying them until the egg was toasted and crisp. I still cook tikoy that way. By default anyway. Fast and easy way to satisfy tikoy craving. Over the years, however, I have learned other ways to enjoy tikoy.
In addition to the default method, we serve tikoy (1) coated in sesame seeds and pan fried; (2) with cheese as filling for fried spring rolls and (3) rolled in desiccated coconut and steamed.
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A list of our favorite Chinese dishes at home
If you feel that the steamed pork buns from the neighborhood Chinese place could be better, that the bread is not fluffy enough and there isn’t sufficient meat filling, perhaps it’s time that you try making this dim sum favorite at home.
Missing dining in Hong Kong terribly, we made a home version of Din Tai Fung’s spicy wontons. You can too with this easy-to-follow recipe which includes how to make Sichuan chili oil.
Seasoned ground pork is formed into balls, rolled in soaked sticky rice and steamed until the rice grains puff. Chinese sticky rice pearl meatballs make a delicious and filling snack.
Pork belly slow cooked with soy sauce, rice wine, onion, ginger, garlic, cloves, peppercorns and star anise. Serve with rice for a delicious meal.
My comfort food as a child, the flavor of sweet sour pork is even more delightful with the addition of plum sauce and oyster sauce to the basic sweet sour sauce.
Balls of dough made with glutinous (sticky) rice flour, sugar and water are stuffed with cheese, rolled in sesame seeds and deep fried until golden.