Fuziah's 'Nian Gao' Popular All-Year Round

Last update: 24/01/2019

By Soon Li Wei

KLANG (Bernama) -- Fuziah Ahmad first made the nian gao two years ago to fulfil her son’s request.

Today, the 55-year-old homemaker finds herself catering to orders for the Chinese New Year delicacy even outside the festive season.

Her son Abdul Hadi Ahamad, 27, had requested her to make the sweet sticky rice cake after tasting it during a Chinese New Year celebration at the home of his friend Louis Yuen Shen, 27, about eight years ago.

It was the first time that Abdul Hadi had a taste of the sweet and chewy nian gao, also known locally as kuih bakul. He took a liking to it immediately. He was, however, disappointed to learn that it was a seasonal dessert only available during Chinese New Year.

Realising his mother's fondness of traditional delicacies, he coaxed her into learning to make the dessert from Louis’s grandmother.

“So one day, two years ago, we both went to Louis’s house to learn how to make nian gao. I had no idea that the recipe was so simple. We decided to try making one at home using the recipe given by his grandmother and by referring to YouTube videos,” Fuziah told Bernama.


Fuziah’s first attempt resulted in two pieces of nian gao that garnered her son’s approval.

“The ingredients are easy to obtain so I decided to just try my hand at it in my free time. My son shared it with his friends and they loved it. They suggested I make a business out of it,” said Fuziah who hailed from Kapar, Selangor.

Today, Fuziah makes nian gao in two sizes: 350g which she sells for RM11 and 800g which goes for RM22.

The ingredients comprise glutinous rice flour, white sugar, brown sugar and water which are all combined and left for 30 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. The batter is then left to cool for another 30 minutes.

“This step is vital to prevent an uneven surface and bubbles from forming in the batter,” she explained.

The batter is then steamed for 10 to 12 hours.

“A long steaming time is also important in ensuring that the cake doesn’t end up too sticky,” she added.

Abdul Hadi, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in engineering, is more than happy to assist his mother in completing orders in his free time.

“The time spent helping my mother make nian gao strengthens our family bond,” he said.


Fuziah’s nian gao quickly became a favourite among family and friends. Photos of her creation were uploaded to social media and soon became viral. A Facebook user placed an order and before long, Fuziah was taking down orders by the dozens.

“I make the cakes to order and the minimum order is two pieces. We have once made around 100 pieces within four days to fulfil an order by an NGO last year.

“My customers are from various races. Some also make specific requests like having the nian gao wrapped in banana leaf as that would make it more fragrant,” she said.

Fuziah had no idea that the nian gao she learned to make just to fulfil the request of her third son would end up becoming a source of income.

Since photos of the nian gao she made were uploaded to Facebook two years ago, Fuziah has sold over 1,000 nian gao across the country. Orders are especially higher during Aidilfitri.

“During Chinese New Year, I get more Malay customers than Chinese ones. Chinese customers tend to order from me outside of the Chinese New Year season,” she revealed.

After uploading videos of her creations on Facebook and Instagram, Fuziah is now receiving more orders including those from Sabah and Sarawak.

“My customers find out about my nian gao business through social media. I would usually take down orders that are placed a week in advance.

“The nian gao needs to be cooled down for at least three days at room temperature or two days in the refrigerator after it is steamed. This is to make it easier to cut and serve,” she said.   

Nian gao can be enjoyed on its own but some would fry it with yam and sweet potatoes or eat it with grated coconut.

Abdul Hadi said that initially, he was the only one in his family who enjoyed it.

“Today, my entire family loves it. It is so good especially when eaten with grated coconut or after it has just been taken out of the fridge as it would then taste like candy,” he said.

Translated by Sakina Mohamed