On the 15th day of Chinese New Year, it is customary for Chinese family to serve tang yuan (汤圆). We also serve this for other festive occasions, such as during Winter Solstice Festival (冬至), weddings, or during a family reunion. Tang yuan is made from glutinous (sticky) rice flour mixed with water and formed into round balls and served with a sweet syrup soup. Tang yuan can be plain with no filling, but it is more common to find them stuffed with sweet paste such as black sesame, red bean, or peanut. I am going to share a simple recipe to make black sesame tang yuan so you can prepare this for your family on the February 11, which is the 15th day of lunar (Chinese) calendar in 2017.
I make my black sesame filling with only three ingredients: toasted back sesame seeds, powdered sugar, and unsalted butter. Traditionally the fat part is made with pork lard, but it is much easier to just use butter I think. If you cannot buy black sesame seeds that are already toasted, you can make your own by simply toast them on a frying pan/skillet on medium low heat for about 10 minutes, and remember to stir often so they are evenly toasted. To make the paste, pulse black sesame with a food processor until powdery, then add sugar and pulse to mix well, then add butter and pulse again into a uniform paste. Transfer to a bowl and chill/freeze until firm.
To make tang yuan dough, you will need white sticky (glutinous) rice flour and water. Simple add water, a little at a time, and knead until the dough comes into a ball and the elasticity resembles your ear lobe. Divide the dough into small portions, for this recipe, you can divide into 12 pieces. Grab a piece of dough, make a round ball, flatten the ball, place a marble-size ball (about 1 teaspoon) filling at the center of the dough, then wrap the filling with the dough, and gently roll into a round ball. You then simply needs to cook the dough in a pot of boiling water until the balls float to the surface.
I like to serve my tang yuan with a simple syrup soup made with cooking together water, ginger, pandan, and sugar. Remember to use round bowls to serve your tang yuan since the roundness of the bowl and the tang yuan balls all work together to symbolize harmony.
- 60 gram toasted black sesame seeds
- 75 gram powdered sugar
- 85 gram unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup white sticky (glutinous) rice flour
- ½ cup water
- 500 ml water
- 100 gram ginger, peeled and bruised
- 2 pandan leaves (optional), knotted
- 75 gram sugar
- In a food processor, pulse black sesame seeds until powdery. Add sugar and pulse until well combined. Add butter, and pulse again into a uniform paste.
- Transfer the paste into a bowl or any container. Wrap with a saran plastic. Chill/freeze until firm and easy to form into small balls.
- Divide filling into 4 portions. For this recipe, we will only need 1 portion. Save 3 portions for the future since it is best to make fresh tang yuan each time.
- Add all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off heat and strain to get a clear syrup. Divide into four serving bowls. Set aside.
- Place glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl. Pour water in batches and knead with your hands until the dough come together into a play dough (earlobe) like consistency. You may need slightly more or less water. Divide the dough into 12 portions.
- Work each portion into a disc, place roughly 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds filling at the center. Seal. Then, gently roll into a ball. Repeat for the rest of the dough. You may want to cover the balls with a dampen towel to prevent them from drying.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Gently drop the tang yuan into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. Once they float for about 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon and place into the prepared serving bowls. Serve immediately.