The Nian Gao’s Sticky Blessings

A Chinese delicacy that is often described as a sticky steamed sugar cake, the nian gao is widely believed to bring good luck. We highlight five hotels in Singapore that serve this auspicious treat.

The nian gao may seem like your ordinary snack served at every reunion meal, but looks can be deceiving. This steamed sugar rice cake has a storied history that is steeped in Chinese folklore. Its origins are traced back to the legend of Nian, a mythical monster who lived deep under the sea; only to resurface during Lunar New Year to terrorise villagers and destroy crops. And as the legend goes, things remain the same until a traveller arrives to the village and scares off Nian with firecrackers and red paper plastered on the doors of every house.

And other adaptations of this legend involved a valiant stranger named Gao. In a stroke of genius, the hero placed steamed rice cakes on the doorsteps of every house in the village. The said cakes were so tempting and delicious that Nian, relieved of its hunger, spared the villagers and returned to his watery abode. The nian gao quickly became a cherished dish during Lunar New Year celebrations. And in our homage to Gao, we usher in a bountiful Year of the Ox with these sticky treats from five luxury hotels on the island!


Yam Paste Nian Gao (Image courtesy of Jade)

This highly-requested flavour is back once again during this Lunar New Year! And this year, the Fullerton Hotel Singapore’s Cantonese restaurant, Jade, reinvents their signature staple into a tart. Steamed nian gao is layered over a smooth yam paste and served in a crisp and buttery shell. This reimagined, bite sized, new year classic will be a quick favourite for everyone in the family during reunion meals.

For more information, visit fairmont.com.



Chilled D24 Durian Nian Gao Roll (Image courtesy of Min Jiang)

Lovers of the king of fruits, will rejoice with Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel’s Chilled D24 Durian Nian Gao Roll. Their technique is similar to the traditional nian gao; using ingredients such as glutinous rice flour, rock sugar and simmered gula melaka. Spread onto a thin sheet before steaming, the hotel’s bestseller is then mixed with a durian based purée and kaya – proving that sweet blessings do come in pairs.

For more information, visit goodwoodparkhotel.com.


Fish Nian Gao (Image courtesy of Summer Palace)

Summer Palace at the Regent Singapore invites diners to bite into their nian gao-s that are shaped in the form of a fish – instantly marrying two auspicious symbols of Chinese New Year: luck and wealth. Many Asian cultures regard fishes to bring good fortune, longevity, better prosperity and wealth. Be sure to count your blessings with sticky treat!

For more information, visit regenthotels.com.


Traditional Gula Melaka Nian Gao (Image courtesy of InterContinental Hotel)

The InterContinental Singapore’sTraditional Gula Melaka Nian Gao offers a traditional option to nian gao eating this new year. Traditionally, a nian gao is made with sugar, however because of the gula melaka in this mixture, the hotel’s dessert ends up having a rich brown colour in terms of appearance and is even chewier in texture; compared to the classic.

For more information, visit intercontinental.com.


The Black Glutinous Nian Gao is available with the Chinese New Year offering (Image courtesy of Szechuan Court & Kitchen)

Szechuan Court at the Fairmont Singapore enhances the classic nian gao with a black glutinous rice flavouring. As its name suggests, the Black Glutinous Rice Nian Gao consists of glutinous rice bits that add to the consistency of the dish, making it stickier than what it is known to be traditionally. And as nian gao symbolises prosperity, this sweet dessert promises to bring you ample blessings for the new year!

For more information, visit fairmont.com.

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Ann Mary Mathew

Editorial Intern

An explorer at heart and a bit of a dreamer at times, she’s usually found snapping photographs of people and places from her travels. On other days, you can find her curled up on bed reading alternate theories on Reddit about sci-fi shows or hanging around at the latest brunch spot.

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