Nian Gao “Onde-Onde”

Don’t these bite-sized morsels remotely resemble onde-onde (popular Nonya kuih)? They are actually nian gao in disguise. With the leftover nian gao I have from making pan-fried sweet potato nian gao, I decided to try something different from the pan-fried versions I am more familiar with.

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Nian gao becomes soft and sticky after steaming, so you can easily roll them in the grated coconut. Though they are not perfectly shaped or taste like real onde-onde, they do taste good. My family who have a sweet tooth loved this version, but for me, it’s a little too sweet for my liking. If I were to remake this dish, I would buy freshly grated coconut from the market, instead of the packet desiccated ones I picked up from the supermarket which is “stiff” and not as soft as I would like it to be.

Step-by-Step Photos

Scatter a 1-cm layer of grated coconut on a plate with a pinch of salt. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange cubed nian gao one layer on top of grated coconut without overlapping.

Steam at high heat for about 8 minutes. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, roll each cube in the grated coconut.

Nian Gao Onde-Onde

Nian Gao in Grated Coconut Recipe

“Nian Gao” or Chinese New Year Cake is an auspicious festive food. The Chinese word “nian gao” 年糕 sounds like “higher year” so it signifies greater success in the coming year. The stickiness also represents family togetherness and closeness. Serve this snack with Chinese tea to aid digestion as nian gao is sticky and filling.


  • 150 grams refrigerated nian gao 年糕 (tikoy) cut to even-sized small cubes
  • 3 tbsp grated (desiccated) coconut or just enough to cover 1 cm of the plate
  • a small pinch of salt
  • cut banana leaf squares for better presentation; optional


  1. Combine grated coconut and salt in a plate. Roll nian gao cubes in the grated coconut and arrange one layer without overlapping each other.
  2. Steam at high heat for about 8 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to roll each nian gao piece in the remaining grated coconut until evenly coated. For better presentation, place each piece on a cut banana leaf. Serve with Chinese tea.

Noob Cook Tips:

  1. For ease of cutting the nian gao, refrigerate it overnight. The hardened nian gao will be much easier to cut than when it is soft and sticky.
  2. The amount of grated coconut in this recipe is indicative. You can basically eye-ball the quantity by making sure that it covers the entire plate by 1 cm.