Nian gao and congee get a healthy upgrade for Chinese New Year

Nian gao and congee get a healthy upgrade for Chinese New Year

Enjoy these festive treats, which are brightly coloured - but only contain natural ingredients


Photo: Wynnie Chan

Beetroot and pomegranate pudding

A naturally red version of nin gou (Chinese New Year sweet rice cake), which gets its festive colour from pureed beetroot and pomegranate juice.


200g (around 4 small) raw beetroot, washed

250ml pomegranate juice

150g Chinese raw brown slab sugar

75ml coconut milk

250g glutinous rice flour


1 Lightly grease a 22cm x 12cm x 5cm tin.

2 Place the beetroots in a large saucepan, cover with water, then add a teaspoon of vinegar. Bring to the boil over a medium high heat. Cover, and simmer on a low heat for 30-40 minutes until the beetroots are tender. Drain, and set aside to cool. 

3 Peel beetroots, then chop into small pieces, and blitz until smooth using a stick blender or food processor.

4 Bring the pomegranate juice to a simmer over a medium heat, add the sugar, and cook stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved completely. Allow to cool.

5 Mix the pureed beetroot, pomegranate syrup and coconut milk together. Stir in the flour, mixing thoroughly. Pour through a sieve into the prepared tin.

6 Set a rack in the bottom of a wok, add water, cover and bring to the boil. Place the pudding on the rack, cover with foil and steam over a medium high heat, covered with a lid for 45-50 minutes until set. 

7 Serve cold, warm or dipped in beaten egg and pan-fried.

Nutritional information per 100g: 180kcal, 757kJ, 1.5g protein, 0.5g fat, 43.0g carbohydrates, 1.9g fibre

Photo: Wynnie Chan

Purple sweet potato, cashew and mushroom congee

Finding ways to eat less or no meat is a good resolution for the Western, and Lunar New Year. This comforting, creamy congee is great for welcoming friends and relatives during the festive season.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

4 dried Chinese mushrooms, rinsed, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained

1/2 tbsp grapeseed oil

4 shallots, peeled, chopped

thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled, chopped

200g short grain brown or white or a mixture of both, rinsed

2l vegetable stock or water; if you like your congee thicker, reduce to 1.5l

50g raw cashew nuts, soaked in water for 2 hours, drained

250g (2 small) purple sweet potato, peeled, diced

1 tbsp yeast extract (optional)

2 tsp light soy sauce

salt and white pepper to taste

handful fresh coriander, chopped


1 Remove and discard the stalks of the mushrooms, then slice them thinly.

2 Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then sauté the shallots and ginger for 5-6 minutes until fragrant. 

3 Stir in the rice, cashew nuts, mushrooms and stock, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for 1 ½ hours, stirring frequently.

4 Stir in the sweet potato, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cook in the residual heat for a further 10 minutes, until tender.

5 Season to taste with yeast extract if using, soy sauce, salt and white pepper. Sprinkle coriander on top before serving.

Nutritional information per serving (4): 363kcal, 1532kJ, 13.5g protein, 10.2g fat, 61.9g carbohydrates, 4.0g fibre


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Kerry Hoo