Black Bean Ricecake (CNY2021)
It will be Chinese New Year holiday next week and I have started my preparation since last weekend. I love the feeling that on cold and cloudy winter weekends I prepare something tasty and cozy in my kitchen while something’s in the oven or steamer. Nian-gao can be kept in fridge for weeks and it takes longer time simmering the filling and steaming, so I would prepare them first. However I wouldn’t prepare much this year, despite that I am still unable to visit my nearest families and share food with them.
What is nian-gao (Chinese ricecake)
Nian-gao is a general term of cakes that Chinese usually have during Chinese New Year. ‘Nian’ means ‘year’ in Chinese mandarin pronounciation. There are a large variety of nian-gao in different Chinese cuisines, sweet or savoury, with or without filling, though most of them are usually prepared from glutinous rice, white long grain or medium grain rice. For a more convenient home-cooking version, they can also be made with rice flour. The most commonly seen ricecake is white ricecake made with white rice and usually sliced. Such type of ricecake in vacuum package can be easily obtained anytime in most Asian grocery stores. But during Chinese New Year period, usually on January or February, various types of nian-gao, even freshly made ones, can be seen in Asian grocery stores and Chinatown worldwide.
I mentioned in my previous nian-gao recipe – Fluffy Red Bean Ricecake, that more rice flour could make fluffier steamed cake, while more glutinous rice flour could make chewier cake; you can use rice flour or glutinous rice flour only, but that makes the texture completely different. Some of my friends would love to know how it would be if I use glutinous rice flour in the same recipe. Thus, I would prepare this nian-gao for Chinese New Year, with black beans.
Black bean is among one of the healthiest beans. They are packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein and carbohydrates. Since I have been on a low glycemic diet, I like to add some unseasoned boiled black beans in steamed brown rice or vegetable soup. It takes time soaking in water and simmering so usually everytime I prepare black beans, I would prepare a bigger portion, keep in fridge and take whenever I want. The boiled water is also healthy, we call it black bean tea.
I wouldn’t season this black beans ricecake with too much salt or sugar. I grill them patiently in low heat, in oven or with a pan, till they are golden crispy outside, chewy and soft inside, then served them with roasted soy bean powder, syrup in any flavour, such as matcha, sweet red bean soup or paste, or light soy sauce, and seaweed. Or they can be thinly sliced when chilled, grilled till crispy. Their uneven surface will be super crunchy. They are one of my favourite snacks and teatime desserts in winter.
More of my nian-gao recipes for Chinese New Year, all vegetarian –
Roasted soy bean powder can be obtained in grocery store, or you could follow my recipe – How to make roasted soybean flour at home /kinako
Ingredients – for 4 serving
- Dry black beans, 50g
- Glutinous rice flour, 200g
- Salt, 1/2tsp
- White sugar, 1tbsp
How to do –
- Prepare the black beans – Use good quality of dry black beans, soak them in water overnight; boil them in a soup pot with plenty of water, bring to boil then simmer for at least an hour in medium-low heat. Check constantly and remove the scum. Beans should be soft enough to be chewed easily but don’t mash them. Remove from the stove and let it sit for one more hour; Drain the beans but keep the boiled water. I drink it as tea or keep it for soup broth;
- While the black beans are simmering, prepare the flour. In a big mixing bowl, put in 200g of glutinous rice flour, seasoned with a nip of salt and a tablespoon of sugar, mix well; Slowly add in 100ml of water, little by little, and mix with spatula at the same time;
(You may have noticed the proportion of flour and liquid for similar types of ricecake is 2;1.)
- Rub the lumps with your palms and fingers to break the lumps. Keep rubbing till all lumps broken apart finely and the rice flour moist evenly;
- For a finer texture, sift the rice flour with colander. This is not essential in this ricecake. Then cover it with cling film, set aside for at least half an hour;
(If you can’t finish the rice flour, keep them in freezer)
- When beans and flour are ready, we can make the cake. Wipe a thin layer of oil inside the container surface. Put a layer of rice flour at the bottom, shake the container so that the flour flatten evenly, don’t press with spoon, the flour should be loose, then a layer of beans, and a layer of rice flour, a layer of beans again, and a layer of flour on top. You wouldn’t see the layer after steaming but to do this, black beans can be placed evenly;
(I use such Ikea glass food containers for making steamed cake in my previous ricecake / nian-gao recipes. They are in the right shape and size. Once the cake is cooked, I could put the lid on and keep them in fridge, or give it to friend or family for present.)
- Now let’s steam the cake. In a steamer, put in plenty of water, make sure you wrap the lid with cotton kitchen cloth. Steam in high heat for half an hour. After heat off, let the cake sit in the steamer for half an hour;
(If you are not using a bamboo steamer, remember to wrap the lid with cotton kitchen towel, it can absorb the moisture.)
- Keep the ricecake in fridge overnight and it would become firmer and can be sliced easily. Cut it into big cubes, or slices. In medium-low heat, patiently grill them in oven or in a pan till golden and crunchy on the surface, soft and hot inside.
grilled, and served with toasted soy bean flour (kinako)
- 黑豆 50克
- 糯米粉 200克
- 盐 半茶匙
- 糖 1汤匙
grilled and served with matcha paste