stir-fried rice cakes (for Lunar New Year)

Stir-fried rice cakes, also known as Shanghai stir-fried rice cakes, is a great dish to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year! Growing up, I'd get so excited when my mom would make these -- she'd actually make them year-round. The chewy texture of these oval rice cakes were such a great break from the typical dinner with white rice. I'd always have multiple helpings!

Using Chinese sausage in this dish for the protein makes the it come together very quickly and effortlessly. You can also substitute the protein or veggies with anything else you have in the fridge. For veggies, I love a mixture of napa cabbage and bok choy.

Why do we eat rice cakes during Lunar New Year?

At every Chinese celebration, you’ll find symbolism behind most dishes. In many cases, the words that make up the dish are homophones for words that represent prosperity, wealth, or good fortune in the new year. 

Rice cakes (in savory or sweet form) are often eaten around this time because the word 年糕 (nian gao), which translates to “year cake”, sounds like 高 (gao), a different word which means “tall” or “high”. 

年年高高 is a phrase that means “better or higher every year.” I hope we can all bring this energy into this new year!

What types of rice cakes should you get for stir-fried rice cakes?

There are several types of rice cakes most commonly found at Asian grocery stores:

Refrigerated, perishable rice cakes (most preferred for convenience)

These refrigerated rice cakes (specifically the oval-shaped ones) are my preferred option for this stir-fried rice cake because of their convenience. There's no long soaking needed prior to cooking, which helps the dish come together in just about 30 minutes.

These are found in the refrigerated aisle of most Asian grocery stores. They're commonly vacuum-sealed, and once opened, are quickly perishable. If you don't use up the whole package and don't plan to within the same week, you can also freeze them and just thaw in room temperature water once you're ready to use.

Here's an Amazon link to purchase these (please note, I haven't tried ordering these from Amazon myself! I usually get them from my local Asian grocery store, but understand that's not an option for everyone).

Completely dried, shelf-stable rice cakes (least preferred for convenience)

These completely dried rice cakes are typically found in the dried goods area of the grocery store.

One benefit about this option is that they're shelf-stable and can be stored for (likely) years. However, the inconvenience of needing to soak them for hours, sometimes days, makes this option my least favorite.

This is what my mom used growing up, and she'd soak them for several days in room temperature water, changing the water every day.

Fresh rice cakes (less common)

Sometimes at Korean grocery stores like Hmart, you can find fresh rice cakes. I personally haven't used fresh rice cakes in this recipe, but think they should probably work similar to the refrigerated kind. The only difference in cooking is that you would reduce the amount of broth added to the pan (that's used to steam the veggies), and add the rice cakes after the vegetables are done steaming in the broth.

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Stir-Fried Rice Cakes

This is a dish I grew up eating year-round, but rice cakes are extra special for Lunar New Year because the Chinese words for it, "nian gao", sounds like "better or higher every year."
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 3 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb oval-shaped rice cakes the ones from the refrigerated aisle at the grocery store work best! if using completely dried rice cakes, they must be soaked in room temp water for at least overnight to 24 hours
  • 2 Chinese sausages
  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 5-6 oz napa cabbage
  • 5-6 oz baby bok choy
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch knob of ginger
  • 2 stalks scallions
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¾ cup reserved mushroom liquid or chicken/veggie broth
  • 2 tablespoon neutral oil for cooking

seasoning

Instructions
 

Prepare the ingredients

  • In a bowl, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in at least 1.5 cups of hot water and cover to let rehydrate. This should take 20-30 mins, with thicker mushrooms taking slightly longer.
    6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Meanwhile, prepare the veggies, aromatics, and Chinese sausage. Slice the napa cabbage into ½ inch strips. Slice the baby bok choy in half vertically (or quarters if the bok choy is larger).
    5-6 oz napa cabbage, 5-6 oz baby bok choy
  • Mince the garlic, ginger, and slice the scallions (separate the white and green parts).
    4-5 cloves garlic, 1 inch knob of ginger, 2 stalks scallions
  • Slice the chinese sausages on a bias, to increase the surface area of each piece. When shiitake mushrooms are fully rehydrated, squeeze out the liquid, remove the tough stems, and slice them into strips. Set aside ¾ cup of the mushroom liquid for cooking.
    2 Chinese sausages
  • Mix all the seasoning ingredients together and set aside.
    1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, ½ tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, ⅛ teaspoon white pepper

Stir fry the rice cakes

  • Heat up a nonstick pan on medium heat and add neutral oil. Once warm, add the aromatics: garlic, ginger, and whites parts of the scallions. Stir fry for 1-2 mins or until fragrant.
    4-5 cloves garlic, 1 inch knob of ginger, 2 tablespoon neutral oil, 2 stalks scallions
  • Add the Chinese sausages and mushrooms. Stir fry for another 1-2 mins, until the Chinese sausages have rendered out some fat.
    2 Chinese sausages, ¾ cup reserved mushroom liquid or chicken/veggie broth
  • Add the napa cabbage, bok choy, and rice cakes to the pan. With your spatula, create a small empty space in the middle of the pan, then pour the ¾ cup of mushroom soaking liquid in that space. If needed, increase the heat so that the liquid is boiling, then cover the pan to let the rice cakes and veggies steam for 3 minutes, or until the rice cakes have softened.
    5-6 oz napa cabbage, 5-6 oz baby bok choy, 1 lb oval-shaped rice cakes
  • Once the rice cakes have softened, remove the lid and add the seasoning sauce mixed earlier. Incorporate well and stir-fry until all the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with sesame oil and scallion greens.
    ½ teaspoon sesame oil
Keyword lunar new year rice cake, savory rice cakes, stir fried rice cakes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I saw your Instagram Reel and made this for my family's lunar new year celebration - it was a huge hit! The only things I modified were the ounces of napa and bok choy (added closer to 8 oz for each), increased the white pepper to 1/4 tsp, and slightly lowered the sugar. It was excellent and definitely requested for the next celebration. Thanks for a great recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    Love this recipe and made it for my fam for CNY. My mom always requests it from me now. Only one thing to note, when you double (or triple) the recipe, the measurements for the water needed to rehydrate and later cook the rice cakes don’t change. Maybe adjust the recipe to also make the water a separate ingredient.

    • smellylunchbox

      Hi Krystal!

      Thank you for trying the recipe -- I'm SO happy to hear that your family enjoys it!! I just double-checked the recipe per your suggestion regarding the liquid used to rehydrate + cook the rice cakes and veggies. The ingredient is listed as "¾ cup reserved mushroom liquid or chicken/veggie broth" and it does double or triple when I click on the buttons to scale the recipe. Hopefully it was just a one-time glitch, but thank you for noticing and letting me know! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    We've made this a few times now and we love it! It's now on our "favourite meals" list! So quick, easy and tasty

  4. 4 stars
    Delicious and easy! Once you chop and prepare the ingredients, this recipe comes together quickly.

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