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Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Year Cake

February 2, 2015

Sweet and succulent flower crab stir fried (Hua Xie Chao) with delicate herbs, spices and sticky glutinous rice Chinese New Year Cakes (Nian Gao).Stir Fried Flower Crab with Chinese New Year Cake - Bam's Kitchen

Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Year Cake (花蟹炒年糕, Hua Xie Chao Nian Gao) is a very special dish to share with family and friends during the upcoming Lunar Year.

The flower crab (Hua Xie Chao) is sweet and turns a bright red/orange hue when it is stir fried in the wok. You have to do a little work to get to the succulent crab meat, but when you do, I promise that you are just going to love this Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Year Cake dish. This might not be the best first date type of meal as there is not anything dainty about digging out crab meat with your chopsticks and sucking the end of the crab legs while the juice drips down your chin. However, you are going to just love the delicate flavours of the ginger, garlic and sweet flower crab and this is the perfect meal to bring in the Chinese New Year (CNY).

Stir Fried Flower Crab with Chinese New Year Cake- Bam's Kitchen

Stir fried crab with Chinese New Year cake (Hua Xie Chao Nian Gao) is a special dish from the Zhe Jiang Province that my dear friend, Safie, is from. I asked her what dish do you want to make together to celebrate the New Year. She immediately responded with Hua Xie Chao Nian Gao as it is something that reminds her of the warm memories of being home for the holidays. With a good plan in place, we went to the wet market to gather our supplies.

Aberdeen Wet Market Hong Kong - Bam's Kitchen

The first thing on our grocery list was the The New Years cake (Nian Gao in Mandarin or Nian Gou in Cantonese). Nian Gao are chewy little rice cakes made of glutinous rice flour that is pounded to different shapes and sizes and add a nice texture to this dish. Nian Gao is a very popular recipe item during the Chinese New Year as “Nian” means year and “gao” means high. This loosely translates to “every year, may you reach higher and higher.” Nian Gao is a very common dish served during the Chinese New Year for good luck and to be prosperous in the upcoming New Year. The Chinese New Year (Lunar Year or Spring Festival) will be celebrated starting on Feb 19th, 2015 of this year. New Year cakes come in many shapes and sizes and colours and additions depending on which China province you live in.

Chinese New Year Sticky Rice Cakes - Bam's Kitchen

My dear sweet friend, Safie, is from the province of Zhe Jiang and city of Wen Zhou. In her hometown, they have a very special Nian Gao that has wild Chinese herbs in it and is slightly red/beige colour. Nian gao has a very chewy and sticky texture that just makes your mouth want to go back for more. They are like a really fun textured rice noodle. They can be used in both savoury and sweet Chinese dishes. I would have loved to make this dish using her hometown's Nian Gao but it would be very difficult for you to find this in your country or even in Hong Kong. Here is the little Chef, Safie! Please extend a warm hello and a thank you to Safie for bringing us this recipe and the history behind this special dish.

Safie Chan_My Dear Friend - Bam's Kitchen

Instead, we have made this Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Year Cake dish with your basic run of the mill Chinese dried rice cake that can be found in the noodle section of a grocery store or sometimes can also be found fresh in the refrigerator section. We used the brand Ng Fun Bran, 500 grams rice cakes in the noodles section of a local Park n Shop here in Hong Kong. Chinese rice cakes are a bit different in taste and texture from the Korean dduk (Tteok). However, if that is all you can find you can slice the cylinder shaped Korean dduk or find them in disks in the refrigerated section.  If you can obtain your special Nian Goa from your hometown, then just slice and add to the recipe and it would be even better.

Chinese New Year Sticky Rice Cakes - Bam's Kitchen

Next on our list was to head to the Aberdeen wet market to pick out our live happily swimming Asian Flower crabs (Hua Xie). This type of crab meat is very sweet and tender.  We told the sweet little Cantonese fish vendor that we were making Hua Xie Chao Nian Gao) and she smiled and picked out 2 live and very active female crabs with lots of roe. I guess the roe is really what makes the dish stand out. I understand that in some countries you cannot harvest adult female crabs but I am in living in Hong Kong and I need to be respectful of their traditions and culture. So when you're in Rome....

Flower Crab Hua Xie - Bam's Kitchen

In order for the delicious crab meat and roe to permeate the dish you need to cut up and prepare the live crab. Now, this is the part that I get a bit squeamish about and so glad that the sweet little fish monger offered to clean up, remove the lungs and chop up the crab into sections. Bless her, as I never have the heart to kill anything still moving.

Flower Crab Hua Xie - Bam's Kitchen

When we first moved to Hong Kong, my husband brought home 2 live fish and gave them to me. He wanted me to prepare Cantonese steamed fish. I filled the kitchen sink with water and let the fish swim and asked him if we should buy an aquarium. Since then, I have over come many of my fears. One trick that I have learned is to ask the fish monger to prepare the fish or seafood as you wish before you leave the wet market and if all else falls ask for extra ice. Ice works to freeze and paralyse the fish/seafood so that they are kind of sleeping before you prepare them.

Flower Crab Hua Xie - Bam's Kitchen

The other items on our grocery list such as cornstarch, ginger, green onions light and dark soya sauce, sugar and Shaoxing wine are standard items in any Chinese Kitchen.  Light soya sauce gives it a slightly salty favour. The dark sauce gives it a pretty colour. If you want to keep this dish gluten-free, then just use tamari sauce instead of soy sauce. The Shaoxing wine, ginger, garlic and green onions are the aromatics in this very special dish. The crab and sugar give it sweetness. The nian gao gives it its fun texture and slight sweetness.

Stir Fried Flower Crab with Chinese New Year Cake - Bam's Kitchen

As the Chinese New Year is a very special celebration, Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Years Cake would traditionally be served with a very special aged Shaoxing wine (niu er hong). Shaoxing wine is fermented rice wine. It is usually made in the region of Shaoxing and in the province of Zhejiang so that is why it is called Shaoxing wine.

Stir Fried Flower Crab with Chinese New Year Cake - Bam's Kitchen

Niu er hong (translates as daughter red) and is usually made by the father and he buries this aged Shaoxing wine under the ground until his daughter is married. When his daughter marries, he digs up the special aged Shaoxing wine and they enjoy with the wedding celebration. This special "aged Shaoxing wine" is not to used in making the Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Years Cake but instead to be enjoyed with the meal. The younger Shaoxing wines can be used for the purpose of cooking. You can purchase Shaoxing wine in any Asian grocery store and you can exchange for cooking sherry if you cannot find this product.

Wishing everyone a very safe and happy Chinese New Year and I hope you enjoy this delicious Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Years Cake as a part of your CNY tradition.

Stir Fried Flower Crab with Chinese New Year Cake - Bam's Kitchen

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Stir Fried Crab with Chinese New Year Cake

By HWC Magazine  , , , , ,   

February 2, 2015

Sweet and succulent flower crab stir fried (Hua Xie Chao) with delicate herbs, spices and sticky glutinous rice Chinese New Year Cakes (Nian Gao).

  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yields: 4 Adults or 1 Hungry Teenager

Ingredients

crabs - 2 live Asian flower crabs (Hua Xie) female hard shell crabs with lots of roe are best.

Chinese New Year Cakes (Nian Gao) - 500 grams of Nian Gao (Sticky rice oval sliced cakes) - can use dried or fresh and even exchange with Korean dduk if cannot find Chinese sticky rice cakes

cornstarch - 1-2 tablespoons to coat the the ends of the crab and to prevent crab from coming out of shell and to help thicken the sauce.

canola oil - 1 tablespoon

ginger - about a 1.5 inch sliced knob of ginger cut into thin julianned slivers. (Do not mince or it will be too strong a flavour in the dish)

garlic - 2 cloves minced

green onions - 3 scallions cut into 2 inch strips (and extra for garnish) Use the white sections for aromatics and save the green sections at the end of the cooking process

rice wine (shao xing) - 1/2 cup

tamari (soy) sauce - 1.5 tablespoons or to taste

dark soy sauce - 1 tablespoon

water - 1 cup

sugar - 3 teaspoons or to taste

Directions

1Ask your fish monger to quarter the crab and remove the lungs. Alternatively if you bring home a live crab, then place crab in lots of ice to help sedate the crab before stunning, quartering the crab and removing the lungs and main shell (called the carapace) Keep the main shell (carapace) whole but quarter the leg sections.

2Rinse your Sticky Chinese New Year rice cakes. Do not soak or otherwise they get too sticky. Set aside.

3Dip the ends of the cut crab in cornstarch. this helps prevent the meat from falling out during the cooking process and also helps thicken the sauce.

4Place oil in wok and add ginger, garlic and the white end of the green onion (bash the white parts of the green onion with the back of clever) and fry until aromatic. Add all of your crab quarters, main top shell and legs and stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until crab shells turn red.

5Add the Shaoxing wine, Tamari (light soy sauce) and dark soy sauce to taste, sugar, rice cakes and water. Stir fry for 1 minute and then cover for about 2 additional minutes or until rice cakes are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.

6Add the green part of the scallions and stir into mixture, adjust seasonings as needed and serve. Enjoy!

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  • There are so many traditional Chinese dishes out there! This is the first time I heard of frying crabs with nian gao, sounds and look delicious!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thanks Jasline. I know that chili crab is quite popular but these flavors are really delicate and the sticky chewy rice cakes are a nice texture along with the crab and pick up the savory roe flavors. A must try dish!

  • What a delicious looking dish, wish I could dig in and enjoy.

    • Bams Kitchen

      Hi there Norma! So good to see you here today. Have you ever tried something similar to this dish?

      • Yes, I make something similar but not with crab.
        In the U.S. shao xing wine sold in the food market contains salt, for drinking one needs to buy it from the liquor store.

  • I LOVE crab. I salivated from beginning to to end of this post.
    Have a super day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thank you Mandy. This dish has very delicate flavors that really allow the gentle sweet flavors of the crab shine through.

  • Robyn

    Oh my gosh, Bobbi, I burst out laughing when I read the story about your husband and the fish! I would have done the same thing. Thank goodness for butchers because I can’t kill anything moving either, lol.
    This dish is simply beautiful and I would give anything to be sitting down to that fabulous meal right now. I love that you and your friend, Safie, cooked this together and created a masterpiece – so impressive! Sharing all over 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Welcome home Birthday Girl! We will need to have a belated celebration. Seriously if it wasn’t for my husband taking things in his own hands, those 2 fish would still be swimming in my sink. I will pass on your kind comments on to Safie. Take care

  • Oh my gosh this is one incredible dish! I am so jealous of your markets. Funny story – we took our kids to San Francisco almost 20 years ago (I rremember because it was for my 40th) and of course we walked through Chinatown. Because of what my daughter saw hanging, swimming, and in cages at the markets, she became a vegetarian. She was 10. She’s still a vegetarian.

    • Bams Kitchen

      Hi there Mimi! Thanks so much. I am glad you liked this dish. You will have to come to visit Hong Kong and we can go on a tour of the markets, together. Wet markets are not for the faint of heart and can relate to why your daughter is still a vegetarian. Hong Kongers love their food fresh, really fresh and maybe only walking or swimming just moments before it hits the wok. When I first moved to Asia, it was more difficult but now I am quite used to the hustle and bustle of the markets.

  • When ever I see a recipe using crab I feel a little bit jealous that we don’t get that delicacy here. Enjoy the Chinese New Year 🙂

  • Oh this is such a delicious crab feast! I miss wet market where you buy seafood fresh unlike here in he U.S. where everything is frozen. 🙂

  • Your photos are outstanding and this crab dish would be wonderful to kick off Chinese New Year!

  • I’m not a big crab eater, but this is a beautiful dish!

  • I love learning about foreign cuisines! This looks amazing and a lovely treat for the holiday. 🙂

  • Wow those crabs are huge and fatty, I would love to devour on some of those 🙂

  • shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com

    Oh my – I cannot believe how fresh that crab is! There’s no way I could harm something moving either – thank goodness for the sweet little fish monger! This looks fantastic Bobbie – I am salivating just looking at these pictures!

  • What an interesting dish, how do you eat the crab? Is the body edible too? Happy New Year!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Hello Eva, I hope you are doing well. This particular kind of crab in HK is called a flower crab. This particular crab is hard shelled crab so a crab cracker, chopsticks and even the claw end I found useful to get out that delicious sweet crab meat out of the shell. Wishing you a very safe and happy New Year.

  • kitchenriffs

    Cutting up live crabs (or lobsters) isn’t one of my favorite things to do. Always good to have a fish monger to do it for you! This looks great — so much flavor and color. Good dish — thanks.

  • So wonderful to have the gorgeous recipe from your friend, Safie! I’m not sure I could do justice to making it in Indiana, but I’d love to taste it!!!

  • Eha

    Well, the Year of the Goat still has a fortnight to be with us [yes, Bobbi, I DID Google!] and this is the first Chinese New Year’s recipe I have seen this year!! And what a gorgeous one – I just wish I could replicate here in the Australian countryside – one can but dream or hope for a lift to the Sydney Fish Markets in the interim 🙂 ! Meanwhile shall be on the lookout for the rice cakes methinks I have not previously enjoyed. Oh I can just imagine how delightful all of this tasted!!!!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thank you Eha, you made my day! I am glad I could help you get in the mood for the start of the Chinese New Year season. This dish is really beautiful. I know that crab would be best but if you do ever get your hands on the New Year cakes/sticky rice cakes maybe you could try this dish with prawns if you want to try something a little something different.
      You know what this brings up a very interesting conversation… I was just asking Safie, my friend, and also Jasline from “The Foodie Baker” from Singapore about why there is so much confusion this year in regards to determining if this is the year of the sheep, ram or goat. Here is their response… In Chinese, ram is known as 公羊 (gong yang), sheep is 绵羊 (mian yang) and goat is 山羊 (shan yang). All 3 have the word 羊 (yang) in them, so I all three can be correct. I have seen cute little sheep red packets here at the New Years market, pictures of goats on top of the Nian gao cake packages and pictures of a ram at the godiva chocolate store all within 3 feet of each other… Talk about confusing… Wishing you a super day!

      • Eha

        Yes, come to think of it: I think I always knew it as the Year of the Ram in bygone days 🙂 ! Anyways, a happy lead-up to the auspicious day and back to Mr Google to learn more for me!!! Trust you are at least ‘fairly’ well! [I can get crab here in the country, but don’t think frozen will do the trick!!!]

  • This is perfection! You and your friend did a wonderful job with this dish and it really looks amazing. My mom makes crab like this with wide “ho fun” noodles underneath (it is so delicious!). I would love to try it with the new year cake. Either way, anything to soak up that amazing crab flavor is dreamy.

  • Dear BAM,

    The shape of the flower crab looks similar to the blue swimmers we get here in Sydney. I would love to visit the famous seafood market in Hong Kong. I bet this crab dish is just a delicious at the ones in fine Cantonese restaurant but at a fraction of the price too! Thanks for sharing a beautiful recipe.

  • Damn delicious, we used to had this with kway teow flat rice noodle, never seen this kind of new year cake, tempting to try!!!

  • hotlyspiced

    I don’t have to worry about going on a ‘first date’ but if I did, no, I wouldn’t order this. This is definitely the type of meal where I tend to end up wearing it. It does look full of flavour. I have never tried a New Year cake xx

  • I am ashamed to say, I cant handle touching crabs and lobsters. Ever since I was a little kid, watching as my folks cooked the yabbies we’d caught, the screaming as they were cooked, gahhhh…. Too much for this little lady to handle. So, I do love the look of your gorgeous dish, but I’d have to get someone to make it for me. I know…. you gals should cross the pond for dinner at mine.
    Have you featured Safie before on your blog? She looks so familiar.

  • Crab is my favorite shellfish, love all the meanings and traditions this time of year.

  • Safie

    Thank you Bobbi. Thanks to everyone. Bobbi makes it so perfect. She is the best chef I have ever met.
    Safie

    • Bams Kitchen

      Xie Xie Ni Safie! You are the chef! I was just the prep/sous chef, photographer and of course quality assurance tester. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your home town, a wonderful recipe and of course a little bit about the Chinese New Year tradition. I am sure that my readers would want to have you visit again soon. Thanks so much!!! Xian Nian Kuai Le!!!

  • What a great looking dish!

  • These crabs are giant. We do have crabs here but they are much smaller. I love crab and your dish is delicious Bobbi!

  • I love crab and hardly ever have it. Your dish looks so festive with all of the bright colors and textures. Happy Chinese New Year!

  • Wow, that crab is huge! And I know you say that the lady killed and cleaned the crab but I’m looking at that guy & she’s looking back at me. I’m with you on cutting up anything that still living. I can stick a lobster in a pot of boiling water but I’ve never been able to do the stuffed lobster where I have to cut the live lobster in half…nuh uh, not this girl.
    This truly looks like a very special dish though and it must be so much fun cooking with Safie and to have her help guide you in the selection process.

    Hi Safie – this is a great looking dish. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Bams Kitchen

      Safie is an amazing cook and is always introducing me to new ways to use Chinese ingredients and I am so glad I was able to introduce her to my blogging family. Safie is a sweetheart and a very dear friend.

      I agree they were really nice big crabs. Since then, Safie has been back to the wet market to see if she could reserve some crabs for Chinese New Year and they said that it would be impossible as there will be such a huge request during the holiday season. Things get really busy here in HK around the Chinese New Year (CNY). Alternatively, this dish would be nice with some sweet prawns. Prawns for me are much easier to take care of …if you know what I mean, as once you put them in a bag of ice they go to sleep and then you can do what you need to do. Take Care, BAM

  • Oh if I only had a fish monger to ask for some beautiful crab like this. I grew up eating as many blue crab as I could possible eat. It’s just one of those things I’ve never been able to get enough of. You crab and crab dish is driving me nuts!!! I want it!

  • Perfect dish to celebrate the new year! Very good choice 🙂 Looks amazing.

  • Wow! The colour on that crab is just gorgeous! I’m in the same squeamish dept as you, and I’m not sure I want to deal with a live crab! This dish looks pretty amazing though, Safie did a great job!

  • Your crab is such a delicious way to celebrate the Chinese New Year! It looks flavoursome and a perfect party dish 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  • OMG! This is a real treat for me…I love nian gao, any shape and form…and can imagine how delicious this is with this gigantic crab…absolutely gorgeous!
    Hope you are enjoying your week Bobbi 🙂

  • This is such a stunning dish! It looks really wonderful.

  • I love crab and have made a similar version, but Vietnamese style with lots of black pepper and sugar. I want one right now since I’m thinking about it! I don’t like to kill anything either, so I won’t tell you how my husband broke my cleaver killing a lobster. Now I have them prepared! Have a great celebration Bobby!

  • We’re in the inland city, so fresh crabs are very rare. But I will try to order crab whenever I travel to a city along the sea. The fried crab and the rice cake sound so festival and definitely a great way to celebrate Chinese new year. I’m guessing you’ll cook this one for your guest? It’ll be a big hit!

    • Bams Kitchen

      I would love to cook this for guests over the CNY. However, we have asked a lovely fish monger in aberdeen wet market if she could reserve some of these crabs and she said that it would be near impossible over the Chinese New Years to get these big beautiful crabs as it will be a high requested item over CNY in the restaurants and will be sold out in the wet markets. Sigh….

  • Kathleen Richardson

    What a wonderful recipe and pictures of the preparations. Love the stories behind everything you prepare, BAM. Thank your friend for me, too, for this delicious looking recipe. I wonder if my local supermarket would prep the crab for me. Like you, I’m a bit (face it, a lot!) squeamish about the idea of working with a live-anything. Gonna post this one!

  • I love seafood with bold flavors. This dish looks so inviting and inspiring. I normally stick to crab legs because it is easy to find in my area. You make this whole crab recipe seem easy to prepare. Thanks, would love to share and post…

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