A simple and clever way to incorporate another culture while engaging kids in one of their favorite activities is to choose colorful and age-appropriate stories from around the world. This past February, I found a great book that does just that while captivating my kids. After reading this book about Chinese New Year, we got the kids in the kitchen to try to make rice cakes.
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In The Runaway Rice Cake, Chinese author Ying Chang Compestine pairs whimsical illustrations with a twist on the classic Gingerbread Man story for a new adventure that takes place during Chinese New Year. With the small amount of rice flour the Chang family has, they manage to make a single rice cake, which of course escapes by running away. After the adventurous chase, the story has a happy ending (for the people) that incorporates a lesson on sharing with those less fortunate.
The best part about this book is the simple recipe for a sweet sticky rice cake (nian gao) on the last pages. It was SO easy to make, sweet and chewy- I doubt you would find a kid who would not like this. I got the two types of rice flours for $0.79 at an Asian supermarket, and used a pie tin over my steamer to make it. Who can say no to dessert??– just have the kids make sure the rice cake doesn’t run away while he’s cooking!
- 1.5 c glutinous rice flour
- 1 c rice flour
- 1 c sugar (either brown sugar or white)
- 1/4 c dried cherries (I have used cherry-flavored cranberries, and also chopped dates)
- 1/4 c raisins
- 1 c nuts (I used almonds once and pistachios another time)
- 1 c water
1) Combine everything except water. Add water.
2) Spray a pie tin with Pam. Pour batter in pan.
3) Put the pan in a steamer (I used my veggie steamer that has 2 separate compartments but you could rig something up in a big soup pot.)
4) Steam for 20 min until the nian gao is more translucent, or at least the texture is a solid.
Remove it onto a plate and cut into wedges when cool. Is the cake sticky as the name suggests? How does this cake compare to a cake you might make for someone’s birthday? Can you taste a rice flavor from the flour?
Nian gao is traditionally given as a gift during Chinese New Year, so I suggest you make 2: one to give to friends, and one to enjoy as a family. It is considered good luck to eat nian gao at the new year, because “nian gao” is a homonym for “higher year.”
Available at the Kid World Citizen Teachers Pay Teachers Store, these units are an incredible collection of Common Core aligned reading, writing, math, and critical thinking activities, as well as craftivities and coloring sheets. Kids have fun doing word problems, scrambles, graphing, a maze- and they learn about Chinese culture. Go now! >