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 make TangYuan every year at home and I would love to introduce a funny version from this year. This is a marbled version as an improved version of traditional pure white ones.
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 than normal flour, which might be harder in assembling process (cracks on surface) and broken skins. We can surely soften the flour and make it more obedient by adding warmer water. I have tested with lots of combinations with hot water + cold water, cold water and warm water. Using hot water can make the dough super soft and thus easy to assemble (no cracklings on surface) but the tangyuan actually is not round but oval. It can’t hold the shape well after cooked. So I still use warm water this time.
- 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.
- Use the minimum water for a smooth surface can make the perfect round shape.
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 with salt, powdered sugar and peanuts into flour.
And add 100ml lard or butter (how to render lard at home), either melted and then add 40 to 50ml water.
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 round ball. Slightly dust the ball with sticky rice flour for further storage.
To make the marbled version, cut 1/3 of a large potion of dough and mix with coloring completely. I use vegetable color powder (from purple sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin and spinach). Sprinkle some extra water. Then roughly mix the colored dough with the white dough (make sure they are combined in texture but not in color). Take a 20g dough and wrap well. It makes around 16 ones this batch.
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. In order to show the beautiful surface this time, I only add rock sugar to create a very faint sweet base.
Classic Chinese festival food-Tang yuan with black sesame filling
- 1 cup toasted black sesame around 100g
- 1/4 cup toasted peanuts
- 1 cup sugar powder around 100g
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 5 tbsp. lard or butter
- 3 tbsp. water
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup warm water , around 50 to 60 degree C.
- vegetable color powder purple sweet potato powder, pumpkin, carrot and spinach.
Toast black sesame in a pan or oven (detailed guide can be find here).
Add black sesame, powdered sugar, salt and peanuts into a blender. Blend well.
Add melted lard and water. Mix well. Then chill until hardened and then shape 1/2 tablespoon of the filling into round balls. Cover with plastic wrapper and chill in fridge again.
Stir warm water to sticky rice flour and then knead to form a smooth ball.
Shape to a long log and shape into 6 portions. Cover 4 portions with wet cloth.
Halve the remaining 2 portions and turn into 4 portions. Add vegetable color powder one by one and knead until the color is well mixed. Sprinkle water whenever necessary.
Mix the colored dough with the white dough roughly (to create the marbled surface). Take a 20g portion and then shape to a small ball, place the dough in and wrap well. Squeeze the ball in turn in two hands to make sure no cracks on surface. If you feel the dough is hard to handle, wet your hand before assembling. Slightly dust the ball with sticky rice flour for further storage. They can be frozen in air-tight bags.
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.