Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)

On every Winter Solstice (Dong Zhi in mandarin) which usually falls on Deember 21 or 22 each year, the Chinese community will gather together and make and eat Tang Yuan (Mandarin) or Tong Yuen (Cantonese) which is glutinous rice balls served in a syrup. The roundness of the glutinous balls symbolizes unity and harmony in a family. Hence, this dish/event is widely celebrated. These days, you don’t need to wait till Dong Zhi to eat these delicious Tang Yuans.

I remember when I was younger, mommy said that I’m a year older after eating the Tang Yuans. Recently, I heard that traditionally, you’re supposed to eat Tang Yuans according to your current age, plus one. So if you’re 10 right now, you’ll have to eat 11 Tang Yuans….hence making you an 11 year old after you finish your bowl of Tang Yuans. I’m 28 turning 29…..that means I would have to eat 29 Tang Yuans…….Imagine if you’re 60, 70, or 80! How on earth would one be able to eat that many Tang Yuans without getting a bad case of indigestion??? Hubby suggested to make big round ones…imagine him  eating 30 big round Tang Yuans. I don’t know if he will choke first, puke first or go right into sugar high!

I like my Tang Yuans in sweet ginger syrup. Some of these sweet versions of Tang Yuan will have a red bean paste filling, black sesame paste filling or just sugar. It’s really a personal preference! You could also make them savory by boiling them in a soup along with vegetables and/or meat.

I will make Tang Yuans during Dong Zhi, not that I like getting “old”, but I love this tong sui. And I’ll make them randomly a couple times a year….whenever I have a Tang Yuan craving!

I usually mix cold water to the glutinous rice flour and serve them in a ginger syrup mixture. This year, my mom suggested that I try mixing the dough with boiling water. It apparently gives the dough a slightly more springy texture to the Tang Yuan instead of a gooey one. She told me to serve it in some brown sugar syrup. I took her advice and made it differently this year. It was definitely better. Hubby even commented that the Tang Yuans are nice to chew. Thanks Mom for the tips. Here’s the Tang Yuan recipe based on Mom’s tips.




Part A (Dough)

  • 1 Cup Glutinous Rice Flour (Plus more if needed)
  • 1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp Hot Boiling Water (Plus more if needed)
  • Food Coloring Gel (Optional)

Part B (Syrup)

  • 2 Inch Ginger, Cut into 4 slices
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2-3 Pandan Leaves, Knotted
  • 2-1/2 Cup Water


Bring Part B (Syrup) to boil until sugar melted. Set aside and keep warm. You can adjust sweetness of the syrup by adding more or less sugar and or water. It’s personal preference for this!

In a large bowl, add glutinous rice flour and form a well. Gradually pour in hot water into the “well”, while stirring mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir to combine. When the mixture is not as hot ( and you’re hand is comfortable to the temperature) use your hands to knead the dough. Knead dough until it’s no longer sticking to the bowl or your hands (as shown below). For any reason, If you think you need more water or flour, do so gradually.


At this point, you could roll the dough into a log and pinch them to make smaller balls. I like my Tang Yuans slightly colorful and divided my dough into 3. I added some Pandan paste to one dough and Wilton red food coloring gel to another dough. Dap a little coloring at a time. A little goes a long way. Knead them until all colors are incorporated. Because I’ve introduced some liquid to the dough, I needed more glutinous rice flour to bring the texture back to a non-stick texture. Gradually sprinkle a little glutinous rice flour at a time and continue kneading the dough until it’s no longer “non-stick” again.


When you get the colors you want (the colors will turn slightly darker when cooked), roll each color into a log, before pinching of bits to roll them into a ball. Place the balls on a plate lined with some parchment paper.


Bring a pot of water to boil, then drop the Tang Yuans into it. Do not over crowd the pot. The Tang Yuans will float when they are cook. Let them cook another minute or two after they float to make sure everything is cooked through. Strain Tang Yuans and run cold water through.

  TangYuan7 TangYuan8

Drop the cooked Tang Yuans into the pot of syrup. Bring syrup to boil with the Tang Yuans for about 1-2 minutes before serving. This should feed about 2 people.


June’s Comments: If you don’t want plain Tang Yuans, you could fill them them Red Bean Paste or Black Sesame Paste or even roll some Black Sesame Seeds onto the dough. Filling the Tang Yuans and rolling them was tough for me. so, I only made 4 Red Bean filled Tang Yuan. =)


Rebecca said...

Thank you! Just learned about Dongzhi and thinking about making these. Your instructions are so clear and the pictures are great!

Rebecca said...

Thank you! I just learned about Dongzhi and am thinking about making these. Your instructions are so clear, and the pictures are great!

Bengchoo said...

Thanks for the tip re adding boiling hot water to the flour. I've heard about it before & apparently it works to make the balls springy!

Mayang ABDUL RAZAK said...

watching AFC about this tang yuan make me craving this.. thanks for the receipe... can't wait to cook this

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