Osmanthus Nian Go (桂花年糕)

Nian Go (年糕 Rice Cake) is one of the traditional food eaten in Chinese New Year.

It is hot, sticky and sweet. It's a sticky mess to eat, but what a delight.

Buy the Tea used in this recipe: Osmanthus

I remember when I was little, I would follow my family in Chinese New Year to visit family. It is a time we sit down, catch up and have a big meal. 

Chinese New Year is a big thing. It is one all family members "should" come together. 

We clean up the apartment a few days before the Chinese New Year day, and put up the red banners on each door - from main door to our own bedroom doors. 

Each red banner has a saying or blessing, like good healthy, invite wealth in, strong like a horse and a dragon. 

Everything is red and gold. Yes, lotsa bling. 

And yes, the feast. There are all kinds of delicious and exotic dishes on the big round table for all to share. 

There would be suckling pig, steamed whole chicken, fish, abalone, those really weird black hair looking moss with shiitake mushrooms and more. 

For me, my focus is sweets - yes lots and lots of it. 

Besides lollies and chocolates, there is my favourite - Nian Go. 

Nian Go means "grow every year" and it's a hit with every kid (pretty much). 

It is sticky, it's pan fried, and yes, we always overeat.

Traditional Nian Go is brown because of the sugar used. Fancier version came on later using coconut milk and white sugar.

I come across ones with azuki red beans and nowadays, the very popular carp fish shape ones (same flavour as traditional ones, just moulded into this "auspicious animal shape". 

Now I am an adult, I still love Nian Go. But I prefer it less sweet.

So in this recipe, I used the more natural Raw Sugar instead.

This Nian Go is super low in sugar, with fragrant Osmanthus flowers (Kwai Fa) to give this dessert an elegant touch.

Osmanthus Nian Go is so much nicer to eat without feeling like overdosed on sugar.

If you are adventurous, mould it in any mould you have at home. Be sure to oil it really well. 

Nian Go little men

I made a little batch of Nian Go little people. I pan fry some little people and ate them with my kids (insert evil laughs). 

Don't let the steps below fool you, Nian Go is easy to make, and very versatile. I plan to explore adding mango pulp instead of osmanthus tea or water. A tropical Aussie touch LOL.

If you love Mochi, Rice Cake, Glutinous Rice, this Osmanthus Nian Go is surely going to make you smile.

This recipe can serve 6-10 people, pending on how much each people pig out on ;) Make a day ahead.


  • 1 tbsp Osmanthus
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 300g Raw Sugar
  • 600g Glutinous Rice Flour
  • Little bit of cooking oil to grease the mould / baking tray


  1. Mix 2 cups of boiling and osmanthus in a jug. Let it brew. 
  2. In a small saucepan, mix sugar and remaining 1 cup of boiling water. Stir in medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. 
  3. Turn off heat. Let it cool. 
  4. Grease your moulds (silicon ones are great) or baking tray at least 4/5cm deep. 
  5. If using a wok to steam, fill the wok with water to get it ready for steaming the Nian Go. 
  6. In a large mixing bowl, mix osmanthus tea including the flowers little bit at a time with the glutinous flour till liquid is used up. 
  7. Add sugar water in the mixture, continue to stir to make sure the batter has no lumps. 
  8. The finished batter is runny like gravy. Pour the batter into your oiled moulds. 
  9. Steam in steamer or wok with boiling water and steaming rack for 1-1.5 hours. 
  10. When the Nian Go is completely cooked, you will see no liquid / batter at the bottom of the mould. Turn off heat. Remove Nian Go from heat to cool.
    (fresh Nian Go is like Mochi. Super sticky and very tasty. But the Chinese version you would pan fry it first.)
  11. Before pan frying, place the Nian Go in the fridge overnight to cool. The cooled Nian Go is easier to come off the mould. Traditionally, cut into 2cm thick slices and pan fry with oil. But I find cutting them into bite-size 3cm squares are much easier to pan fry and to eat.
  12. Oil pan. When you place the Nian Go on the pan, make sure there is lots of distance between pieces or they may stick together when you flip them around.
  13. Turn on stove to medium heat. Pan fry one side and when it's bubbly, flip them around to fry the other side. 
  14. Ready to enjoy while it's piping hot!

While you pan fry the Nian Go, you will notice they stick together easily. So some people like to dip the pieces in beaten egg before pan frying. I never like this flavour.

However, I experiment press some sesame seeds (unroasted) on the Nian Go pieces before frying and it does reduce the stickiness a little, while giving the Nian Go an extra crunch.

Nian Go with Sesame Seeds 

Osmanthus Nian Go is tasty with a cup of medium roasted Chinese Temple oolong.

Nian Go, Temple Oolong and a good book