Experiences - Asia

Spring Festival Food – Niangao

Niangao is popularly known as the Chinese New Year’s cake. Made of glutinous rice and consumed in Chinese cuisine, it is also eaten during the Duanwu Festival. The Chinese people are so fond of this dish that many households make it for any special occasion. But its popularity is at its peak mostly during the Chinese New Year.

Spring Festival Food - Niangao

Image Courtesy: ulterior epicure used under the Creative Commons Licence

In Chinese culture, it is considered good luck to eat niangao during the New Year because the word ‘niangao’ is a homonym for ‘higher year’. So, the Chinese believe that eating this dish will raise them, and make them taller during the year.

Niangao is best described as a rice cake, something of cultural importance in Asian culture. In the days of old, the sticky sweet snack was believed to be an offering to the Kitchen God who used to badmouth the human family in front of the Jade Emperor. So, the people offered him the sticky niangao in the hope that it would seal his mouth, thereby stopping his abuses.

Spring Festival Food - Niangao

Image Courtesy: Eliza Adam used under the Creative Commons Licence

Today, the ritual of offering the snacks to gods has reduced. However, the Chinese continue to place special emphasis on the snack, for they distribute platters of niangao as gifts during the New Year. The traditional form of this sweet is round, with a bit of decoration depicting prosperity. The decoration is usually a character from the Chinese script. The sweets are packaged beautifully, in keeping with the festive season. Popular designs include ingots, the God of Wealth, and a pair of carps. These are auspicious runes and symbolise good wishes for the New Year.

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