Grease your cylindrical containers with cooking oil and line with banana leaf (if available) — or line with parchment paper. Your containers should be no wider than 3.5″ to 4″ in diameter for standard sized Nian Gao.
Weigh your ingredients. For convenience, you can tare a pitcher before weighing your water, for easy pouring later on.
Over low to low-medium heat, brown the 350 g of sugar in a pot with a clear lid. Brown the sugar until the entire round edge is golden brown. Then, stir. Do not over-heat the sugar as burnt sugar will result in a bitter product. (This can take up to 25 minutes, depending on how well your heat is conducting.)
Carefully, very carefully, add water and cover immediately with the lid to prevent scalding. Stir. Turn the heat up and let it come to a rolling and soft boil.
The longer you boil, the less likely (or less slowly) your sticky cake will become moldy.
Once the sugar’s completely dissolved in the boiling syrup, turn the heat off and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, pour 500 g of glutinous rice flour into the cooled syrup mixture. Use a hand whisk to incorporate until well-mixed — until there are no lumps.
Rest the dough for 1 to 2 hours; minimum of 1 hour, for the gluten to rest.
Bring a pot of water to boil to prepare for the steaming step.
After resting the dough, add 2 tbsp of cooking oil.
Gently mix with a spatula and transfer the dough to your cylindrical molds. For aesthetically pleasing Nian Gao, be sure not to overfill the dough, as the steam will help your glutinous rice cakes rise. (Fill up to 2/3 level)
When your pot of water is boiling, carefully place your molds on a steaming rack. Cover and steam on low heat for up to 6 hours. Steaming on low heat ensures that your water level in your pot remains constant. Your Nian Gao will transform from being white in colour to a nice golden brown.