MANILA, Philippines — Of all the edible gifts that one can give family, friends and colleagues on Chinese New Year, Tikoy, which is better known internationally as Nian Gao, is the most popular.
This is because Tikoy is a sticky cake made with glutinous rice flour and symbolizes unity and togetherness. Besides its sticky nature, tikoy is popular during Chinese New Year because the pronunciation of ”nian gao” sounds like the Chinese words for “higher year,” which can translate to “a more prosperous year.” “Nian gao” also happens to be a homonym of “sticky cake.”
The sticky rice cake’s Tagalog name actually came from a combination of the Hokkien Chinese words “ti” (meaning “sweet”) and “keh” (meaning “cake”).
Tikoy, the celebration food of the Chinese New Year, is usually round in shape. While it used to be crudely made, technology has caused the tikoy to evolve. From a round mold fitted with a sheet of food-grade plastic for the tikoy to take shape in and then covered with another sheet to “seal” it, tikoys now are nicely molded and embossed with the Chinese character for “good luck.” Or it takes on the shapes of lucky items, such as kois and ingots. For one, Conrad Manila offers a traditional Nian Gao set this year, and it comes with one big Koi Fish filled with white almonds and six small Koi Fish brimming with the classic flavors of traditional brown coconut caramel and refreshing citrus at P2,388 nett.
The shape, however, does not really matter when it is time to eat the Tikoy. The flavor matters a little bit more, as flavored Tikoys (appropriately colored, too) are now commercially available. Popular flavors include ube, pandan, and strawberry.
Just how many ways can you prepare and eat the Tikoy? Let us count the ways.
1. Eat it as it is, straight from the box
The ingredients have already been cooked when the tikoy was being made, so it is safe to eat without further cooking. Just cut thin slices from the tikoy and enjoy them one slice at a time, at your leisurely pace.
2. Cut into slices and fry
This is the traditional way of enjoying Tikoy. You cut the Tikoy into slices, dip each in beaten egg, then fry just until the egg starts to brown around the Tikoy. To keep the Tikoy from being too sticky to work with, refrigerate first.
3. Make Tikoy Turon
Slice Tikoy evenly. Roll in lumpia wrapper and fry in hot oil until golden. Make variations on your Tikoy Turon by adding strips of Halayang Ube or langka. Serve the turon with condensed milk as dip.
4. Make Ginataang Bilo-bilo and use thick cubes of Tikoy as bilo-bilo
Add it as the last ingredient.
5. Steam Tikoy and coat with ground peanuts
Or make Tikoy Rolls. Steam flat pieces of Tikoy, put strips of halayang ube towards one end, roll, and then coat with ground peanuts.
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