Tang Yuan is a popular sweet Chinese dessert, used to celebrate holidays including Lantern Festival (元宵节)and Winter Solstice Festival (冬至), but is served as desserts now and sometimes as breakfast in cold winter mornings.
I used to make this black sesame rice dumpling is made for our special holidays. In other common days, I usually made easier unstuffed version. Rice dumpling ball-Tang Yuan is loved by people for its round ball shape. Chinese people believe the round food symbolize completeness and family gathering.Back to the old days, we soaked a large batch of glutinous rice firstly and then ground them into rice milk and then filter the water out to make the rice dumpling batter. That process needs help and contribution of almost all family members. So we usually make a larger batch. I can still remember the process repeated year by year. Those sweet memories bring lots of happy memories. The rice dumpling batter can be kept for 1 month in a special jar and we can start enjoying in the new year days starting from the Spring Festival to the Lantern Festival.
Now making tangyuan can be quite easy and quick due to the easy access to glutinous rice flour .There are various filling for Chinese Tang Yuan including peanut filling, sweet red beans, lotus root paste and savory meat filling, but the most classic version is black sesame filling. Black VS White, the best appearance match too.
- Since sticky rice flour is gluten free, you may feel it is harder to control then normal flour, which might result to hard assembling (cracks on surface) and broken skins. We can surely soften the flour and make it more obedient by adding warmer water. But personally I do not like this method because the temperature drops quickly especially in winter days. In order to delay the temperature dropping, you can add hotter water, which will make the dough too sticky to handle. After so many years of experience, I love to introduce this brilliant new way of making the dough. I simplified the method from use this method from fried sesame balls.
Place 1 cup of flour in a large bowl, and then pour 1/4 cup of hot boiling water in the center. Slightly stir in a small range. Cover the let it stay for 10 minutes. When glutinous rice flour meet hot water, it becomes sticky, which can prevent breaks and cracks in the following steps. Then pour in the remaining 3/4 cup of cold water. Knead into a smooth dough.
- The amount of sugar should be guaranteed. Since we contains lots of oil in the filling, limiting the sugar amount will make your filling taste fatty.
How to make the black sesame filling
Toast black sesame seeds at home (I make a large batch this time and save 2/3 of the filling for later usage, so the amount in the picture is three times than the amounts listed in recipe section )
- rinse the black sesame seeds under water to remove any dirts.
- Fry over slow fire until the seeds are well dried. Do not overcook, otherwise the seeds becomes bitter. Transfer out and cool down completely.
To make the black sesame filling
Ground 1 cup of toasted black sesame into flours.
Mix with 1 cup of powdered sugar.
And add 150ml lard or butter (how to render lard at home), either melted or softened.
Mix well and chilled.
If you are not skilled at sealing balls, shape the filling into balls firstly can make the assembling process easier. You can make around 12 to 16 sesame balls this batch. Chilled if necessary.
While the filling is being chilled, mix the dough with glutinous rice flour.
Take one piece and shape into a bowl. Place the filling in. Shape into a around ball.
Cook them in boiling water until floating on the surface. I would suggest shaping the balls once again before cooking, which makes them perfectly round.
How to serve Tang Yuan
Tang Yuan usually is served warm with syrup like Osmanthus syrup, sugar or fermented glutinous rice wine (酒酿). In some parts of China, people love to eat meat dumplings with a savory soup base. You need to scoop one up and gently take one bite and say hello to the lovely filling.
Classic Chinese festival food-Tang yuan with black sesame filling
- 1/2 cup toasted black sesame
- 1/2 cup sugar or as needed
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 80 ml lard or butter
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 3/4 cup cold water
Toast black sesame in a pan or oven (detailed guide can be find here) and then ground them into powders. Smaller particles can be accepted for the filling. Or you might find them directly in store.
In a bowl, mix black sesame powder with salt and sugar. Pour lard and mix well. Place in fridge for 1 hour until slightly hardened.
Place the sticky rice flour into a large bowl, add hot boiling water in the center and wait for 10 minutes. Then pour the cold water. Grasp to form a dough and keep kneading for couple of minutes until the smooth; shape the dough into a long log so that you can make similar pieces in the following step.
Take one piece and shape it to a bowl carefully (tips at Note 1). Then scoop around 1/2 tablespoon to black sesame filling into the center. Seal the rice dumpling completely. See Note 2.Shape the balls as round as possible gently.
Bring water to a boiling in a pot (the water should be at least 2 cm higher than the balls). Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes after they float on surface.
Scoop out with the soup and serve with sugar, or sweet osmanthus or syrup.
Note 1: When shaping the bowl, we need to make the bottom thicker while the other parts uniform. If the bottom is too thin, the balls might break during the shaping process.
Note 2: If you are not skilled at sealing balls, try to shape the filling into balls too. This will make the process easier.
Note3: If you want the filling to have a liquid texture, increase lard in the filling.