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Tikoy - Nian Gao for Lunar New Year - Instant Pot + Stove-top

 Tikoy to Filipinos or Nian Gao  in Mandarin or else Nin Kou in Cantonese is a steamed Chinese rice cake with brown sugar and sweet rice flour. You can cook this in the Instant Pot or stove-top. In the Philippines, an entire steamed cake is given as a gift for the Lunar New Year to symbolize prosperity and good luck. We pan-fried slices to soften it up. Each warm slice was crisp on the outside while sticky soft inside. The yellow coating of the eggs are close in color to 'gold', a symbol of prosperity. The chewy, gummy consistency of the tikoy rice cake are  to make sure the luck 'sticks'. We enjoy these sweet, savory strips of tikoy rice cakes as a snack or dessert during Chinese New Year or all year long. This recipe was adapted from the blog Nut Free Wok. 
I offer 2 ways  to cook homemade Tikoy: In the Instant Pot or stove-top. This recipe made 2 Filipino oval llaneras each 5 x 3 inches or one round 7-inch cake pan. Serves 6 to 8.
Cooking time indicated here is for the Instant Pot multicooker.
Cook Time50 mins
Resting Time1 d
Total Time1 d 50 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, Chinese, Filipino
Keyword: Nian Gao Tikoy Rice Cake
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 258kcal
Author: Asian in America - Elizabeth Ann Quirino


  • Instant Pot multicooker - 6 quarts or 8 quarts.
  • Standard steamer - if cooking stove-top
  • cake pans that fit inside Instant Pot (7-inches diameter) or inside standard steamer


  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 disc (4 oz) panocha solid sugar cane discs with molasses, from Asian markets
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 box (16 oz/1 lb/454 g) Koda Farms Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon organic pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lye water optional
  • 2 to 3 whole large eggs whole, for pan-frying
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil for pan-frying
  • hot tea for serving


  • Grease with cooking oil spray 2 Filipino oval llaneras (5-inch length) or one 7-inch metal round baking pan. (Note: Do not use glassware for the Instant Pot). Set these aside.
  • Place the panocha (palm sugar disc) together with the cup of hot water in a small stockpot. Over high heat, melt the sugar disc in about 2 minutes. Crush the softened palm sugar disc with a wooden spoon and blend till water turns a caramel color. 
  • Add the brown sugar to the water with the melted panocha in the stockpot. Stir and melt the brown sugar. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes over high heat for the brown sugar to melt and start bubbling. Remove from fire and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl: Mix together the Mochiko sweet rice flour, melted sugars, 1/2 cup water, vegetable oil, vanilla and lye. Blend by hand with a large spoon till smooth. Or to hasten the mixing, process in a food processor till silky smooth.
  • Pour the mixture in pre-greased containers.
  • To cook in the Instant Pot:
  • Place one llanera or the round cake pan on top of the steamer trivet (that comes with the Instant Pot). Pour 3 to 4 cups water on the sides of the inside pot, reaching the bottom of the cake pan.
  • Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. 
  • Press Manual + Steam and cook for 45 minutes.
  • When Instant Pot buzzer sounds to announce cooking is complete, carefully do a Quick Release of the valve. Open the lid slowly and put aside.
  • Use silicone oven mitts to remove the cake pan. Cool the tikoy on the counter.
  • Note:  I own a 6-quart Instant Pot Duo which can cook one (1) oval llanera at a time or else one (1) 7-inch round cake metal or silicone pan that fits in the inside pot. 
  • To cook stove-top:
  • Pour the mixture into 2 Filipino llaneras or a round metal cake pan that fits the traditional steamer on your stove.
  • Fill 3/4 full of water the bottom layer of the steamer. Place the second layer of the steamer (pan with holes) that contains the tikoy over the bottom layer filled with boiling water. 
  • Cover and steam for 1 hour and 45 minutes. (Note: Cover the bottom of the lid with a large cheese cloth or kitchen towel so that droplets do not fall on the tikoy mixture).
  • Test to see if steamed tikoy is done by piercing the center with the tip of a sharp knife. When tikoy is firm, then it is done. Remove from steamer. Cool on counter.
  • To store before cooking:
  • When tikoy has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and foil. Seal well. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight to firm up. (Note: Steamed tikoy keeps in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks).
  • To pan fry tikoy for good luck When tikoy is firm enough, slice into bite-sized rectangles or squares about 2-inches each. Dip each slice into a small bowl of beaten eggs. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil. When oil is hot enough in about 2 to 3 minutes, add the pre-soaked tikoy slices. Pan fry each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain fried slices on parchment paper to remove excess oil. Arrange fried slices on a serving platter. Serve warm with piping-hot tea.
  • Cook's comments:  Lye water is also known as lihiya to Filipinos. It is liquid sodium hydroxide, an alkaline substance used in cooking to improve texture and color. I use this for making Kuchinta, a Filipino brown sugar rice cake. Panocha are round discs which are raw sugarcane cakes. They are reddish-brown in color, made with boiled molasses and molded into a round, solid disc that looks like a coconut shell. The lye, panocha and Filipino llaneras (oval tin containers) are sold at Asian markets or online sources like Amazon.com.
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Serving: 1g | Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 49mg | Sugar: 36g | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg