Rice Cake( 年糕，pinyin: nián-gāo) is Chinese traditional food which belongs to seasonable food of Chinese new year. It is a kind of pastry steamed by polished glutinous rice or rice flour. Many areas in China have the tradition of eating rice cake in that in Chinese “Gao” in “Nian Gao” has same pronunciation with “Gao”, which means “higher”. People eats rice cakes especially in large festivals for the wishes of better year than previous.
(photo from baidu baike)
There is an old legend about rice cake. It is said that in the age of Teras, there is a kind of monster called “nian”, who lived in deep mountains at ordinary times but went downhills in winter, catching people for food. Afterwards, a clever tribe came up with a good idea. They made lots of food and made them into a bout. Then when the monster went downhills they put the food in the doorway and hid at home. The monster could see nothing but the food so it could only take away the food. Thus year after year people live a peaceful life thanks to the food. This is how the name “nian gao” derives from.