I fondly remember eating My Mom’s Coconut Sticky Rice Cake growing up. It’s the perfect ending to a Chinese meal – not too sweet and full of coconut flavor.
Recently, my mom gave me a copy of all her treasured recipes she’s been collecting over the years. Some of the recipes are original recipes she came up with, some are recipes my dad specializes in, some are recipes my mom got from friends, and others are recipes my mom modified to make them her own. Some recipes have multiple variations from different sources, which I believe are recipes my mom wanted to perfect.
My dad had meticulously scanned every one of the recipes so I have an electronic copy. I finally got around to printing them all out and organizing them. Now, I’m in the process of trying a bunch of the recipes, photographing them, and editing the recipes. My hope is to try to get all the recipes in good form so we have a cookbook with all of my mom’s recipes as a keepsake. I’ve already shipped off samples of a few of the recipes I’ve tried to my parents for them to taste test, including this Coconut Sticky Rice Cake, one of my mom’s personal favorites.
As I sorted through all the recipes, I noticed there was a disproportionate amount of sticky rice recipes. I asked my mom about it, and apparently, she just loves sticky rice. Who knew.
Chinese New Year happens to start this Thursday, and sticky rice is considered good luck for Chinese New Year. It’s symbolic of family cohesiveness. Although my mom’s sticky rice cake is not the traditional nian gao (which also means sticky cake), it is a form of sticky rice cake, which in Chinese sounds like “getting higher with each year,” implying prosperity in business, better grades, and promotions.
Sticky rice is is labeled “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice” although there is no gluten in it. It can be found at Asian markets. It needs to be soaked first before cooking. My mom’s recipe is based on her memory of a coconut sticky rice cake she enjoyed as a child living in Manila. I fondly remember eating this growing up, and am glad to have this in my recipe collection as well now.
The Chinese New Year celebration starts on Thursday, February 19th this year and ends on March 5th. It’s the year of the sheep, goat, or ram. The reason it’s the year of the sheep, goat or ram is because the Chinese character is “yang” which translates into any of these three animals. You’re a sheep, goat or ram if you’re born in the year 2015 (2/19/15-2/7/16), 2003 (2/1/03-1/21/04), 1991 (2/15/91-2/3/92), 1979 (1/28/79-2/15/80), 1967 (2/9/67-1/29/68), or 1955 (1/24/55-2/1/56).
If you’re born in the year of the sheep, goats and rams, here are some of the characteristics you’re supposed to have: religious (because they kneel when they drink), creative, shy, elegant, emphatic and wise.
There are lots of traditions in the Chinese culture for Chinese New Year (read this old post to learn about some of the traditions). When my kids were young, I used to go into their classrooms and do a whole Chinese New Year gig. I’d read Chinese fairy tales, make a Chinese New Year themed craft with the kids, talk about Chinese New Year traditions, make fried rice in the classroom, bring homemade Chinese noodles in for the teachers…I even made fortune cookies for all the kids with fortunes they wrote out (albeit fortune cookies aren’t really Chinese, but they are fun!). When my in-laws were alive (they lived with us for a number of years), our kids used to pay their respects in return for receiving hung-bao, a red envelope filled with money.
For Chinese New Year, I’d make an auspiciously lucky dinner for my family, replete with Chinese dumplings (symbolizing wealth since they resemble the shape of gold ingots), noodles (long life), chicken (a whole chicken symbolizes family unity), and other “good luck” foods.
I have to admit I haven’t been doing much to celebrate Chinese New Year the last couple of years, so I’m glad I made this Coconut Sticky Rice Cake. At least I’ll have a little good luck in the New Year ;).
Were you born in the year of the sheep, goat or ram? If so, what do you think? Do you have any of the characteristics of the characteristics listed above?
For more Chinese New Year recipes, check out these posts:
16+ Lunar and Chinese New Year recipes
Chinese New Year Recipes: What To Eat If You Want A Raise, Steamy Kitchen
Good Luck Foods for Chinese New Year – Hip Foodie Mom
30 Lunar and Chinese New Year Recipes, Life Made Sweeter
Favorite Chinese New Year Dishes – Appetite for China
Chinese New Year Recipes – Rasa Malaysia
Chinese New Year Menu – The Woks of Life
Chinese New Year Recipes – Noob Cook
Mom's Coconut Sticky Rice Cake
- 1 can coconut milk 13.5 ounces, divided
- 4 cups glutinous rice sometimes labeled as sweet rice, soaked in water 3 hours to overnight
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 3 1/2 cups water
- coconut flakes for garnish, optional
Sweet Coconut Glaze
- 5 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
Stir coconut milk well and set aside 3/4 cup for the Sweet Glaze. Drain soaked glutinous rice and place in rice cooker; add 3 1/2 cups water, sugar and remaining coconut milk. Stir well, and cook on regular white rice setting.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Transfer cooked rice to two 9-inch round cake pans that have been lined with aluminum foil or lightly oiled. Pat down top to flatten surface of rice cake.
Sweet Coconut Glaze
In a small pot, combine 3/4 cup reserved coconut milk, 5 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup water. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Bring coconut milk mixture to a boil, then add cornstarch slurry and cook briefly, stirring constantly, until thickened; remove from heat.
Spread Coconut Sweet Glaze on top of coconut rice cakes. Sprinkle with coconut flakes if desired. Bake for 15-20 minutes until coconut flakes are toasted.
This cake can be served warm or cold.