In the Philippines, tikoy is usually given out as gifts in the days leading up to Chinese New Year by the Chinoy community. But why exactly, not a lot of us really know.
So here, we try to figure out more about it.
The Filipino word tikoy is adapted from the Hokkien/Fujian word for this delicacy: ti (sweet) ke (cake).
Tikoy is popularly given as a gift and eaten during Chinese New Year celebrations because in Chinese folk religion/mythology, it is believed that the Kitchen God makes his annual trip to heaven just before the first day of the new year to give his report to the Jade Emperor, emperor of the heavens, on the activities of every household for the past year.
Offerings of tikoy to the Kitchen God makes his mouth sticky so that he won't be able to report negative things about the family that offered him tikoy.
Another reason is why this sticky sweet snack is commonly eaten during the Chinese New Year celebrations is because in the Mandarin pronunciation of tikoy, nian gao (nian-sticky; gao-cake), if pronounced with a different intonation, sounds like the Mandarin words for "higher year" (nian-year; gao-higher).
Tikoy is therefore considered a symbol of a "higher year" to come.
Tikoy is made from glutinous rice. The glutinous rice is pounded or ground into a paste and is then molded into the desired shape. Tikoy made from glutinous rice flour is usually steamed.
While tikoy is usually store-bought, you can actually make tikoy from scratch. Here's a recipe you can follow.
Store-prepared tikoy come in different molded designs to make it more fun for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Popular designs include a pair of carp to symbolize surplus.
Tikoy is usually cooked by dipping in beaten eggs and fried in a little cooking oil, producing a slightly crispy layer while retaining a soft, chewy, sticky center.
Tip: Whether store-bought or homemade, chill uncooked tikoy in the ref until it stiffens to make it easier to slice before frying.
Some regional Chinese cuisines have variations on cooking/preparation techniques. Some make it even sweeter by adding brown sugar, some make it part of a savory (salty) dish.
You can also dip tikoy in sesame seeds for a crunchy twist. Try frying cooked tikoy in lumpia wrappers to make tikoy turon. You can even try dipping tikoy in Cheeze Whiz (or melted cheese) or chocolate (or both, why not?).
If you're too lazy (or scared to experiment), Eng Bee Tin bakery in Binondo sells flavored tikoy (and even a sugar-free version for diabetics and the health conscious).
Tikoy can be eaten anytime of the year! Just because it is associated with Chinese New Year, it doesn't mean it's supposed to be eaten only once a year.
Asian cuisines have their own versions of glutinous rice treats. Japan has mochi and Korea has tteok. The closest Pinoy glutinous rice dishes whose texture and consistency are close to tikoy would be sapin sapin and kalamay.
Do you enjoy the taste of tikoy? Have you tried the flavored ones or tried making it from scratch? Share your experiences in the Comments Section.