When I was a kid, my mother would make pink and white glutinous rice balls, or 汤圆 (tang yuan), on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. That particular day is 元宵节 (yuan xiao jie) for the Lantern Festival and marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival celebrations.
The round glutinous rice balls symbolize wholeness and family reunion, and are an essential part of the holiday menu. Traditional stuffings for tang yuan are peanut paste, sesame paste, or red bean paste. The tang yuan are then cooked in a ginger-muscovado broth or a sweet fermented rice soup.
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Since I got my hands on some beautiful ube, I decided to make tang yuan with it. The glutinous rice balls are colored naturally with butterfly pea/blue ternate and mashed ube. The filling is made of mashed ube, coconut cream, and sugar.
The most finicky part of this recipe is the kneading of the glutinous rice dough. Once you steam a small portion of the dough and return it to the uncooked dough, it will be extremely sticky. Persist with kneading, adding more glutinous rice flour if required. If you can’t be bothered, you can skip it — the end texture just won’t be as good.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
For the stuffing
- 14oz (400g) ube
- 1 tbsp coconut cream
- 2 tbsp sugar
For the dough
- 12.7oz (360g) glutinous rice flour
- 8.5oz (240g) hot water about 176°F (80°C)
- 1.1oz (30g) oil
- 5 butterfly pea flowers
For the broth
- 2 cups water
- 5 ginger slices
- 0.25 cups muscovado sugar
Making the stuffing
- Steam the ube for 20 minutes until soft.
2. Mash the ube finely with a fork. Remove a small amount for the glutinous rice dough later.
3. Add 1 tbsp of coconut cream and 2 tbsp of sugar and mix well until it forms a dough.
4. Make little ube balls for the stuffing.
Making the dough
5. Soak blue ternate flowers in hot water to create blue water.
6. Knead 4.2oz (120g) of glutinous rice flour, slowly adding around 2.8oz (80g) of hot water about 176°F (80°C). Once the dough forms a non-sticky, pliable dough, add a couple of drops of oil and knead well.
7. Repeat to make the blue dough using the blue ternate water. Repeat to make the purple dough using the mashed ube and (slightly more) water.
8. IMPORTANT! Remove about 10 percent of the dough of each colour and steam it for about 10 minutes. Then knead it back into the dough. This is an important step for the best texture of the tang yuan.
9. Make three tubes of each color and put them side by side, then roll into a ball. Make a hole and put the stuffing in, closing the glutinous rice ball around it.
10. All the galaxy tang yuan are done! Dust them with some loose flour. You can cook them fresh (recommended) or freeze them.
Cooking the Tang Yuan
11. Boil 2 cups of water with 5 slices of ginger and a quarter cup of sugar to create the serving broth.
My tang yuan went a funny color because I left them in the fridge (not the freezer) and forgot about them for a few days before cooking. Don’t do that!
13. Cook the tang yuan in gently boiling water.
14. When they float to the surface, they are ready!
15. Serve in the sugar broth.
Tang Yuan Recipe by: V for Veganista