Taste of winter: Niangao
Nantong-style niangao, a steamed glutinous rice cake eaten during the Chinese New Year. [Photo/ntjoy.com]
With New Year approaching, staff at a traditional snack shop on Haonan Road, downtown Nantong, are busy making local-style niangao, a steamed glutinous rice cake eaten during the Chinese New Year.
"Although there is still a month and a half to go before the Lunar New Year, the peak season for niangao has begun, with a maximum of nearly 100 cakes being made each day," said Chen Weihua, pastry chef and owner of the shop.
Chen learned the traditional technique for making niangao from a master in his home town of Tongzhou district, and started his own business four years ago.
Based on the ancient technique, Chen has developed six varieties of niangao, featuring red dates, osmanthus, walnut, cranberry, black sesame and chestnut, for regular consumers. His shop also offers sugar-free niangao for diabetics.
In Chinese, niangao is a homonym of the phrase "higher every year," signifying the wish for steadily increasing prosperity. The snack is widely consumed either as a gift for friends or a must-eat dish during the Chinese New Year.
"A bite of niangao on a winter morning not only warms me up, but also brings back memories of childhood," said a local resident surnamed Zhou.
Chen Weihua is busy making niangao at his shop. [Photo/ntjoy.com]
The niangao is usually cut using cotton thread, as it would stick to a knife. [Photo/ntjoy.com]