Chinese Rice Cakes – Chao Nian Gao

A big bowl of thinly sliced Chinese rice cakes with strips of tan fish cake, coated in a savory brown sauce.

Chinese Rice Cake Recipe

These stirfried Chinese rice cakes, or what I call chao nian gao, are cozy and comforting. The rice cakes are dense and chewy (similar to the texture of steamed sweet rice cake, or chewy filled dumplings, both typically eaten during the Lunar New Year), the cabbage a little crunchy, the mushrooms meaty and the fish cakes bouncy. This dish is typically made with beef or pork, but fish cakes make assembly easier since they’re precooked and you only have to reheat them, not cook them.

Everything gets tossed in this savory and salty brown sauce. Which admittedly doesn’t sound that great (bRoWn SaUcE, yum, said no one ever), and it coats the previously pristine ingredients in all its brown glory (this blog is called Delicious *Not* Gorgeous). The taste more than makes up for the name and description though, and it’s almost so flavorful that I want to add more rice, even though the anti-carb on carb inner child within wants to squawk at the idea of Chinese rice cakes and rice. 

How to Prepare Rice Cakes

Even if the rice cakes are refrigerated, and feel hard but not ridiculously so, they’re probably dried, so it’s a two step process to prepare rice cakes: soften, then cook. 

How to Soften Rice Cakes

The first time I made chao nian gao, I was surprised I had to soak the rice cakes to get them to soften. They were refrigerated, so were they actually dried? Did I actually need to soak them? Yes and yes. Luckily, all they need is an hour in some water, and you’re ready to go. They won’t feel completely soft yet, and that’s okay; they’ll soften the rest of the way when you cook them.

How to Cook Dried Rice Cakes

The rice used in rice cakes is already cooked, so there’s no need to cook the rice cakes fully, only soften them. You’ll know when they’re done when they get sticky and chewy – you can taste one, and see if it’s hard and starchy (cook some more), or sticky and chewy (I’d say sik faan, the Cantonese version of “let’s eat!”, but this dish isn’t Cantonese, so chi fan is more accurate). 

If the rice cakes start to stick, don’t worry – you can usually pry them apart with chopsticks, or you can be okay with a few pieces of rice cake stuck together. 

If you get tired of normal rice, try these stir fried rice cakes! The same filing goodness, but with a chewy texture.
5 from 1 vote
A big bowl of thinly sliced Chinese rice cakes with strips of tan fish cake, coated in a savory brown sauce.
Chinese Rice Cakes - Chao Nian Gao
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
A big bowl of these chewy stirfried rice cakes is perfect carby, savory comfort food.
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Shanghainese
Keyword: black pepper, brown sugar, cabbage, egg-free, fish cakes, fish sauce, garlic, green onions, mushrooms, nut-free, onion, rice, rice cakes, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, white pepper, xiaoxing wine
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 409 kcal
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons xiaoxing wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 green onions sliced
  • 1 pound rice cakes
  • 2 portobello mushrooms sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 small head cabbage chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds fish cakes sliced
  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, then set aside.
  2. Place the rice cakes in a medium bowl, and add water to cover. Let soak for at least 1 hour, up to overnight. They won’t be soft to the touch yet, but this will help them soften up when you cook them.
  3. In a large skillet or wok, heat a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until browned and any liquid that the mushrooms have exuded has evaporated. Add the onion, garlic and cabbage; saute for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions are slightly translucent and the cabbage is wilted.
  4. Drain the rice cakes. Add the rice cakes, sauce and fish cakes. Saute until the rice cakes are chewy (they’ll look less matte, but you can also taste one), the sauce coats everything, and the fish cakes are warmed through. Serve hot.

One Reply to “Chinese Rice Cakes – Chao Nian Gao”

  1. I love these type of rice cakes, Heather! I’ve made them before, and they were good, but I didn’t soak them! I imagine they would’ve been outrageously textured had I soaked them. well, live an learn, right? Can’t wait to try this!5 stars

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