Glutinous rice dumplings, or tang yuan (汤圆, literally “round balls in soup”), are traditionally eaten during the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival and on the 15th (final) day of Chinese New Year. It is said that the little dumplings nestled together in a bowl symbolises family closeness and togetherness – very fitting for reunions and festive gatherings!
Made using glutinous rice flour for that prized chewy factor, the small dumpling balls are often filled with a sweetened paste before being boiled in a sweet ginger soup. Popular dumpling fillings include ground black sesame, red bean paste and peanut paste. While this sweet dessert is common, savoury versions also exist and are popular among families from the Southern regions of China.
These glistening white pillows of chewy goodness explode in a taste and textural sensation of gritty peanut and sugar when you bite into them. Some like to dye the white dough various colours (usually red, green and yellow) to make the dumplings stand out, but I think they look more attractive without gaudy dye and make for an elegant after-feast dessert.
Homemade Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Ginger Syrup
adapted from The Gumdrop Button’s black sesame tang yuan.
for the peanut filling:
¼ cup caster sugar
½ cup coarsely ground peanuts
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
for the dumpling dough:
2½ cups glutinous rice flour
for the ginger syrup:
3 slices of fresh ginger
several large pieces of rock sugar
- To make the sweet peanut filling, combine the ground peanuts, sugar and butter together until an even paste forms. Create little ¾ inch balls out of the paste. If the paste is too dry, add a little more butter to the mixture. Place the prepared balls in the fridge to chill while you prepare the dumpling dough.
- Combine the glutinous rice flour with just enough cold water until the dough comes together and has a firm yet malleable consistency (similar to that of play dough).
- Roll some dough into a ball about 1½ inches thick. I find that greasing your hands with some peanut oil helps prevent the dough from sticking to your palms. Flatten the ball into a large circle, place a piece of the prepared peanut paste in the centre and wrap the dough around it. Make sure the dumplings are sealed well, then lightly roll into a ball. Repeat this process until all the dough is used up.
- Fill a pot with 3 to 4 cups of water and add the slices of ginger and rock sugar to taste. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the pieces of rock sugar are fully dissolved, gently place the dumplings in the water. Boil the dumplings for about 5 minutes, or until they float to the surface.
- Put the cooked dumplings in a bowl of cold water to stop them from overcooking (this helps them maintain their springy texture). When ready to eat, serve the dumplings in a bowl of the hot ginger soup.