Niangao Festival - A Sweet Taste on New Year’s Day

Time really does fly- with New Year’s Day coming up soon, so is the sweet taste of all that is associated with it. Niangao, also known as the New Year Cake, is a sweet cake prepared from glutinous rice and other types of rice grain, and is a festive food eaten around this time of the year. Besides its popular taste, there are many reasons why Niangao is the chosen food for the New Year- first off, Niangao is usually found in colors of red, as well as golden and silver, symbolizing the coming New Year bringing more money into one's pocket; secondly, the pronunciation of ‘Niangao’ in Chinese implies 'nian nian gao' (‘better and better coming year’ in English).

In old days when the use of machines wasn’t prevalent, Niangao was made using a mallet to pound glutinous rice in a stone mortar for a long time. Due to mechanization, the art of making Niangao by hand is dying out; to experience firsthand use of this skill and the authentic sweet taste of Niangao, a visit to Waitongwu Village (外桐坞村), Zhuantang Street, where the fifth Niangao Festival will be held for twenty days starting from the 1st of January, 2016, will surely be rewarding.

During the Niangao Festival, there will be opportunities for you to try your hand at making Niangao, to taste freshly made Niangao for free and even learn how to DIY new things with Niangao.

Quick Tips about Making Niangao

To make Niangao, one must follow strict rules regarding the ratio of different kinds of rice and water. The ratio of 60% glutinous rice and 40% regular rice is preferred to guarantee the non-sticky and chewy texture of Niangao to be prepared. Before being steamed, the rice cake powder is mixed with water - this water should ideally be spring water, which is what imparts Niangao its sweetness. The final but the most crucial step involves steady cooperation between two people: one pounds using the mallet and the other turns the rice cake in the mortar so that that it can be worked upon uniformly.

How to get there:

Take bus No. 331 to the Waitongwu bus stop or 318 to Tongwu Highland Tea Village (桐坞高山茶村站)