Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)

It's cold today... really cold. We stayed inside, took down the Christmas tree (don't laugh!), and did a little cleaning and laundry. I decided to try and be a little creative in the kitchen tonight.

I started off looking for traditional things people would eat to celebrate the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. I found that some will make Tang Tuan (glutinous rice balls) for Winter Solstice and the Lantern Festival, so I searched online for a recipe that I could make. I had the ingredients: glutinous rice flower leftover from a previous shopping trip to an Asian grocery, brown sugar, water, and red food coloring. Here's a link to the recipe that I used.

I used the glutinous rice flower and water to make a dough. Sometimes people color their balls pink, so I used food coloring to color half of my dough pink.

I made a syrup with brown sugar and water, and cooked marble sized dough balls until they floated to the top of the syrup.

And here they are. My recipe said that you can serve them in the syrup hot or cold. Of course, I had to try one right away (drum roll please).... Tastes like goo with a little brown sugar flavor. The smaller balls taste better because they had more of the sugary syrup go into them. Still, not good. Not bad, but definitely not good. You can fill the balls with pastes like black sesame seeds and red beans... but I give up. I can't imagine making these things taste really good.

I think I'll stick to making reservations from now on and leave the cooking up to the professionals! I really want to find someplace relatively local that serves Dim Sum. If anyone local reading this knows of a restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where one can order Dim Sum, please let me know. I'd like to try some closer to home rather than driving all of the way to Indianapolis. Maybe I'll meet some people at the Fort Wayne Chinese Families and Friends Association's Spring Festival (aka New Year) Party that can point me in the direction of some local Dim Sum.

Okay, time to clean up the kitchen, throw out my glutinous rice flower dough, and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. I'm hungry after kneading all of that dough!


  1. OH! I LOVE Tang Yuan!! I call them balls of gooey goodness. :)

    I've also been known to call these "soup circles" pastel winter delights. :)

    But, I must admit that my first time eating them (10 years ago) I wasn't impressed.

    I prefer the paste filled ones--give me taro, sesame, or peanut filled and I am happy.

    These have become a tradition for me at Christmas time. Since they are more of a winter solstice thing here in Taiwan you can find them EVERYWHERE the week or two before Christmas.

    I am impressed that you tried making them on your own. I've always just bought the frozen ones.

    I do have to admit, I like them better on day two or three. The soup is thicker--some of the sticky rice will thicken the soup. Then I heat up a small bowl in the microwave. YUMMY!!!

    They also have a different kind of brown sugar here--it is actually called "red sugar" and it tastes quite different.

  2. Amanda, Your pictures of Tang Yuan look so pretty! They do look like little pastel balls of goodness. I'm no wiz in the kitchen and leave most of the cooking in our home to Kevin. Things that I "cook" for us come out of the freezer, a box, or a can. I could handle frozen Tang Yuan. Kneading that dough wasn't easy and made quite a mess to clean up. Stick to frozen!

  3. Might want to try emailing Ryan Duvall, the restaurant critic for the Journal Gazette about a place for Dim Sum. He will answer emails.

  4. Ryan Duvall answered my e-mail! Thanks so much, Kikilia. He replied:

    "There are no dim sum restaurants around here and I am not happy about it. As for good Chinese, I suggest New China Garden up in the Marketplace of Canterbury, House of Hunan north on Coldwater or Yen Ching in Covington Plaza off of West Jefferson. The latter two are higher-end whereas New China is my favorite for affordability and flavor. But I would not scream TRADITIONAL at any of these as they all are your typical high-end Chinese restaurants. We do not have an uber-authentic Chinese place, although we do have a two very authentic Korean places and one authentic Vietnamese place.
    Hope this helps!"


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