Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tang Yuan, Glutinous Rice Balls

Tang Yuan is a Chinese dessert, glutinous rice balls in sweet, ginger water. Eaten during festivals such as the Winter Solstice, Dong Zhi (that just passed in December), lantern festival and also the night before weddings whereby the bride and bridegroom are supposed to swallow these glutinous rice balls as a whole without biting or chewing for an everlasting marriage. The round shape of the Tang Yuan is supposed to represent togetherness in the family.

Tang Yuan comes in many colours like white, pink and green and can be unfilled or filled. The glutinous rice balls are chewy and has a bubble gum texture which is pretty interesting. Unfilled balls of glutinous rice balls are the simplest way to go. However, you can also find tang yuan with black sesame seed, red bean or peanut. We rolled a piece of cane sugar into our tang yuan which after cooking will turn into a syrup when you bite through, giving you a burst of sweetness. 
During Chinese festivals, prepared glutinous rice dough is easily found in markets, thus reducing the hassle to make your own dough. Even in supermarkets, they have frozen tang yuan available with choices of different fillings which you can easily just boil and add to your own sweet ginger water.
We got the dough ready made from the markets on the day of the Winter Solstice festival.
We rolled the dough into a ball the size of a gumball. About an inch in diameter. Push your thumb into the center of the dough and we placed a piece of cane sugar in the middle. Wrap the dough around the piece of sugar and make sure there are no holes. 

Get a small pot of water and heat till a rolling boil. Place the dough balls into the boiling water and let it boil for 3 to 4 minutes. The tang yuans should float to the top when it's done. Get ready an ice bath to shock the tang yuans.

As for the ginger water, you'll need two thumb sized pieces of ginger (if you like the heat of the ginger you could add more), some cane sugar (you could use normal sugar but the cane sugar has a strong caramel flavour), some pandan leaves and a pot of water. I can't really give you specific measurements as  you can alter it to your preference.

But the basic steps is to bruise the ginger with a pestle to help it release its juices. Place the ginger and pandan leaves into a pot of boiling water. You can shave the cane sugar or cut them into tiny cubes so that it dissolves easily. Taste as you go. Let it boil for atleast 15 minutes and you're done!
Serve while hot and enjoy! :)

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