Monday, December 22, 2008

汤圆人团聚 (Tang Yuan)

Yesterday (Dec 21) was the Dong Zhi (冬至), one of the most important festive in Chinese tradition. Dong Zhi, which literally means the "Arrival of Winter", marks the day of the longest night and shortest day.

Accordingly to Wikipedia, this celebration can be traced to the Chinese belief in yin and yang, which represent balance and harmony in life. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time, but it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang. For this reason, the Dong Zhi Festival is a time for optimism. Dong Zhi is celebrated in style. The longest night of the year is a time to put on brand new clothes, visit family with gifts and to laugh and drink deep into the long night.

If you are familiar with Thanksgiving in the Western culture, 冬至is our Easterner's equivalent!

For as long as my memory serves, the night before 冬至, mum will bring out a big round enamel tray which she first used to make the glutinous rice dough. She said the longer you knead the dough, the better the tang yuan will taste. This step is important, so she held fort. Then she will colour a small batch of the dough with the red dye.

My sis and I only come in when the dough was ready to be rolled. We pinched a small piece of the dough and rolled it between our little palms until it is perfectly round. Got to be perfectly round and evenly shaped so that we will be blessed with blissful marriage in time to come, so we were told

To be perfectly honest, the commercial 汤圆 taste much better than the home made ones which is rather bland without the fillings. However, it is for the fun and bonding to get the family together, chatting while rolling the glutinous rice dough into little marble size balls. I shared these fond memories with my only sis and I would love Sheen to keep the childhood memories as well as the Chinese traditions.

I started the ritual last year... which happened to be a total disaster. We invited sis's family to celebrate 冬至 together. I left the 3 kids to roll the 汤圆 and ended up there were more quibbling than rolling. And in the end, all the dough went into the garbage chute!

Things were more controlled this year. You see Sheen taking his responsibilities seriously...

Sheen was creative in making tang yuan of various shapes and sizes. He had snowman, and a caterpillar:

When I buy the commercial 汤圆, I will boil them in water, then add the cooked 汤圆 into warmed Sobe soya milk... Yummy. But in observation of the tradition, I served the dumplings in the home-made brown syrup.

1 cup glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
Gula Melaka to taste
Food coloring (optional)
Fresh ginger, sliced (optional)
Pandan leaves, knotted (optional)


  1. Pour the glutinous rice flour in a bowl and slowly add water until the mixture becomes the texture of dough. You may not need the entire cup of water. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can divide the dough and add food coloring as desired.

  2. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll it into small balls.

  3. Drop the dumplings into boiling water and cook them until they float - about 5 to 10 minutes.

  4. In the meanwhile, prepare a sweet soup by boiling water, pandan leaves and gula melaka. Fresh ginger can also be added to the soup.

  5. Served the cooked dumplings in the soup and served warmed.

汤圆 can also be stuffed with a paste made from grounded peanut, black sesame seeds or red beans.

Blurry pic is all I take when shooting in my dark dingy kitchen.

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