Making Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice) Dessert for Winter Solstice

Today we will experience the shortest day and longest night, it is winter solstice after all. Winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of earth’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the sun, this officially marks that winter is here. As a child, I always look forward to winter solstice as mum would always prepare Tang Yuan (or Tong Yuen) and makes effort to cook everyone’s favourite dishes. When eating Tang Yuan, mum would always say that we are now a year older and wiser.

Traditional Tang Yuan is made of glutinous rice flour. These days Tang Yuan can be prepared with various fillings ranging from brown sugar, palm sugar, black sesame paste, red bean paste and peanut paste.

It won’t be the same if I do not prepare this desert for my family today, so I rampaged to the Chinese Supermarket to get some glutinous rice flour (even though it’s extremely busy with scary grumpy Christmas shoppers everywhere).

When preparing Tang Yuan, I noticed that my mum and hub’s mum tends to take ages mixing and blending the dough (or perhaps I was impatient and like to be hands on rather than being on the sideline watching), but for me, when I prepare my Tang Yuan it takes me a few minutes. This may be because I make a ‘wet paste’ to allow the flour to ‘hydrate’ stepwise. I find the traditional Tang Yuan which contains only glutinous rice flour a little blend in texture so I added a little twist to enhance the texture and make my Tang Yuan bouncier. Here is how I make my Tang Yuan dessert.

For Syrup
Brown or palm sugar to taste
A few slices of fresh ginger

For Glutinous Rice Balls
2 ¼ cups glutinous rice flour (I used pandan glutinous rice flour)
¼ cup plain flour (I used self-raising flour as that was all I had)
1 tbsp castor sugar
1 cup water
Food colouring as required (I tend not to bother with this)
Palm or brown sugar (filling, you can use other fillings, e.g. peanut butter, sesame paste etc.)



To prepare the syrup, just put everything in a pot and boil and simmer for 30 min.

To prepare the glutinous rice balls

1)      Place a cup of water in a big clean bowl.

2)    Slowly, add a cup of glutinous rice flour and mix well with a spatula ensuring there are no lumps and to allow the flour to hydrate. This paste will be quite runny in consistency.

3)     Place sugar, ¼ cup of flour and another cup of glutinous rice flour into the paste and mix well. Gently knead the dough.

4)    Cover the dough and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will allow the flour to soak up moisture.

5)     Divide the dough into several portions and add different food colouring into each portion (if required).

6)    Divide the dough into small bite size and make the dough into balls (Ethan made some worm-shaped, telephone-shaped, banana-shaped Tang Yuan).

7)     To place the filling, flatten the ball with your palm and place the filling in the centre of the ball. Seal and roll to make a ball.

8)      To cook the balls, place the balls in a boiling pot of water. As soon as the balls float, transfer the balls into the syrup water. Enjoy.

This recipe will make slightly harder, bouncier and chewy Tang Yuan (as it contains flour) and crunchy center (if you are using a lump of palm sugar). Try it and tell me if you like this recipe.