Holy Gau! It's the Year of the Rat

Gau: Caramel-colored rice cake, dusted with sesame seeds, topped with a Chinese date and dressed in strips of vermilion paper

“Squeek, squeek, squeek.”

As you know know, today, February 7, 2008 rings in the Chinese New Year of the Rat, succeeding last year’s Pig. In 2009 it will be the Ox.

And paradox to the metaphor of this entry’s title, there is no “Year of the Cow” in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Anyhow, a coworker of ours brought Gau to share with in honor of this annual cultural celebration.

If you’re familiar with Japanese Mochi rice cakes, then that’s pretty much what Gau is like. The only difference is it has more of a caramelized and sweeter flavor from the type of sugar, cooking method and recipe used, and the lack of a dry, powdered rice flour coating that is often found on Mochi. When fresh, it’s very soft and sticky; and just like mochi, begins to “tighten” after a few days. This is when some folks like to fry it up, which rejuvinates and melts it and gives a tasty, crispy bottom. Yum.

Of course like many culinary New Year traditions, there are symbolic meanings to every aspect of Gau:

• The round shape suggests family and community are coming back together full circle
• Its stickiness suggest family and community cohesiveness and integrity
• The date on top represents good luck; red in Chinese is the color of luck
• The sesame seeds suggest fertility

You can find it around this time at select supermarkets or in Honolulu’s Chinatown area, ranging in price from about $2 to $5 each.

There’s a fantastic write-up published just this past month by Wanda Adams, Food Editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, on everything about Gau here.

Gung Hay Fat Choy ~ “May You become Prosperous” (Cantonese)
Sun Nien Fai Lok ~ “Happy New Year” (Cantonese)

Or as we simply say here in Hawaii…



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