Soft and chewy glutinous rice dumplings or Tang Yuan served in sweet ginger broth is well beloved Asian dessert usually eaten during special occasions.
Happy Dong Zi festival to all of you who are reading this and celebrating it. Dong Zi is a celebration of the arrival of winter. I don’t like winter, but I’m all about celebrating with food 😉 I talked at length about this celebration here if you are interested in reading. Tang Yuan are usually made as part of this celebration, though my mom made them for Chinese New Year and our wedding a few years ago too.
Like I’ve mentioned many times probably that the Chinese love anything in “round” shape which signify the union in this case. The family gathers together in this event. I’m thousands of miles away from home, but I’ve been making tang yuan every year for my kids so that they are familiar with this celebration too.
BASIC TANG YUAN IS EASY TO MAKE
You only need glutinous rice flour, water, and food coloring (if you choose to use). However, if you just mix the flour with water, you will have a hard time rolling the dough into little balls. They crack so easily that it’s frustrating. Read on below to see what I do to make the dough easier to handle.
WHY YOU WILL LIKE THIS TANG YUAN RECIPE
1. Addition of agar agar
Addition of agar agar improves the texture of the tang yuan. However, this is optional too. You can make tang yuan without agar agar as well
2. Starter paste
The starter paste, which is glutinous rice flour mix with hot boiling water, makes the dough very easy to work with and pliable and less likely to crack when you roll them
DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF TANG YUAN
This round, I made the plain one without any stuffing. Few years ago, my mom made some with peanut fillings, which is very delicious and not hard to make too. Last year I made savory versions served in fish maw broth! and Hakka-style stuffed with minced meat inside.
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Tang Yuan (Glutinous rice balls in sweet ginger broth)
The sweet ginger broth:
- 4 cups water
- 20 gr fresh ginger thinly sliced
- 3 screwpine leaves /pandan knotted
- 50 gr coconut sugar or use brown sugar to substitute
- 150 gr sugar more or less according to your taste
Making the sweet ginger broth:
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add in ginger, screwpine leaves, and sugar. Bring it back to a boil and then lower the heat to let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Have a taste and add more sugar if you like
Making the dough:
- Place agar agar in a bowl (if using) Add 100 ml of boiling water. Stir and the agar agar will thicken. Add 2 Tbsp glutinous rice flour and continue to stir into paste
- Add this paste to the glutinous rice flour. Gradually add in water (not hot) a bit by a bit and knead with your hands until the dough comes together soft and pliable. If it's too dry, add a bit more water, it shouldn't be too wet that it sticks to your hands or bowl
- Separate the doughs into several small doughs, depends on how many colors you want to make, Drop few drops of the coloring and knead with your hand until the color is even on each dough. I found that using the powder coloring will make the dough a bit dry, in this case you can dab your palms with a bit of water and knead the dough
- Work with one dough at a time while keeping the rest covered, knead the dough again and then pinch off some equal size of small doughs and some large ones if you like and place them on a plate lined with clean dry cloth. Once you have those, take one dough and roll them into round balls. If the dough crack when you roll them, just dab a bit of water and roll again and that will fix the problem
Cooking the tang yuan:
- I recommend to cook the tang yuan separately and not in the ginger broth as it will make the broth cloudy. Bring large pot of water to a boil. When they are rolling boil, add in the tang yuan and let them cook until they float to the top. Use slotted spoon to remove them and submerge them in cold water
Serving the tang yuan:
- Portion out the cooked balls into serving bowl and ladle the sweet soup over it and serve
- Adding agar agar powder makes the texture more springy and chewy and the dough is less likely to tear too.
- You can make the dough up to one day ahead and just cover them well with plastic wrapper (to prevent drying) and leave at room temperature until you are ready to cook the tang yuan the next day.
- Tang yuan are best served the same day they are cooked. They tend to harden when you refrigerate. Of course you can always microwave them to soften again.