This cake from chef-owner Kathy Fang of Fang, a modern Chinese restaurant in San Francisco’s SoMa district, is one of her family’s favorite desserts during Lunar New Year celebrations, which fall on Feb. 12 this year. Steamed rice cakes symbolize growth in the new year and unlike most rice cakes, which are sticky and chewy, this one has a soft, melty texture with a slight waxy bounce to it.
Unable to find this type of Shanghai rice cake locally, Fang makes it from scratch every year. The secret to getting it soft and light is to avoid packing the cake too tightly inside the bamboo steamer. Also: take your time sifting the flour. Fight the urge to force the flour through the sieve. It should be fluffy.
Fang’s family typically enjoys the cake for breakfast with symbolic Lunar New Year dishes, such as golden egg rolls.
Shanghai Steamed Rice Cake
1 cup rice flour
¼ cup glutinous rice flour
¼ cup water
½ cup date sugar or ¼ cup cane sugar
Nuts and dried fruits, like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, cranberries or apricots
Place both the rice flour and glutinous rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add water to the bowl and start mixing in a circular motion with your fingers to blend until the mixture holds together and can be shaped when you press it.
Transfer the moist flour to a sieve and sift it, shaking the sieve, into a fine moist powder. Take your time and fight the urge to force the flour through the sieve. It should be fluffy.
Return the sifted flour to the bowl and add sugar. Mix until fully incorporated.
Prepare an 8-inch diameter bamboo steamer: Cut two 8-inch rounds of parchment paper. Fit one into the bottom of the steamer. Place a steaming rack in the center of a large pot and add water until it reaches ¾ of the rack height. Bring water to a boil.
Pour the rice flour-sugar mixture into the bamboo steamer, evenly spreading it until it’s packed into the steamer. Smooth and flatten the top of the cake using a spatula or a knife. Slice the cake into eight even portions; this helps the cake steam into individual slices, rather than one whole cake.
Decorate the top of the cake with dried fruits and nuts. Cover the top with the second round of parchment paper.
Cover with lid and steam for 20 minutes on high, then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from steamer and serve.
— Recipe from chef-owner Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant
Contributed by local news sources