Wednesday, 30 December 2009

How to make 'Tang Yuan'

Winter solstice festival came and went. Apparently it's on Dec 22nd every year! And here i was thinking that the day varies according to the cheem Chinese calender where they have to look at the moon or the changing seasons or whatever.Being someone who did not start eating tang yuan until i was in Uni, this is still a rather new festival for me. But once i got started there was no turning back. Back in 3rd year in medical school Ling Yien and Ing Wui suddenly came up with the idea of making loads of Tang Yuan for everyone in our batch and invite everyone over to our very humble abode (there were no chairs for people to sit)to celebrate the winter solstice festival.

It was then that i realized that Tang Yuan's are relatively easy to make. The slightly more tedious way is to buy your own flour, and colouring and mix it all together until you get the desired consistency. Anything doughy that you can shape into a ball. Alternatively you can get ready made dough with pre-mixed colouring (so handy) and roll these up into balls. Easy!

Well this year Jh's mom cooked ready made frozen ones. I mentioned i wanted to make my own tang yuan's and waddaya know she gave me these!

Basically these are all you need.

Ready made dough and colouring mix
Ground nuts/ red bean paste (optional)
Sugar (Rock sugar for a more authentic taste)

Step 1: Roll dough into balls. Put some red bean paste or ground peanuts if desired. If lazy ignore filling in anything and just make the balls. (Make it smaller if you're not putting in any filling or else the Tang yuan's will taste really bland.

You can do this anywhere~ in the kitchen, in the living room or like me while surfing the net.. wtf!

Tip: put some flour on the plate or the dough balls will just stick to the plate.

Step 2: Bring to boil a pot of water (amount depends on how much tang yuan's you are making) Just make sure it is enough to cover the balls la. Add lots of sugar and around 3 ginger slices. Also depends on individual preference. Taste as you go along. Start with a small amount of sugar and ginger and add as you go along if you feel the syrup is not sweet/gingery enough.

Step 3: Once your syrup tastes good trow in your balls. Not too many at once though. Make sure there is space for each Tang yuan to float to the surface.When the balls float to the surface it means its cooked and you can scoop them out with the syrup and add more uncooked dough balls.

Step 4: Repeat until everything is cooked. (Damn redundant)

Step 5: Admire and camwhore the fruit of your labour.

Step 6: Tuck in!

Step 7: Ponder the meaning and significance of winter solstice festival. (After stuffing yourself silly with the tang yuan)

A quick search on Wikipedia yielded this result. Read and be educated all non-chinese medium schooled kids!

The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese:冬至; Pin Yin: dōng zhì; "The Extreme of Winter") is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinesea during the Dong Zhi solar term (Winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by theI Ching hexagram fu (復, "Returning").

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (southern part of China and overseas Chinese) is the making and eating of Tang Yuen (湯圓, tong1 jyun2; Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large Tang Yuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. It is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice (and often also Sweet Osmathus flowers), called jiuniang.

In northern China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi. It is said to have originated from Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears. Feeling sympathetic, he ordered his apprentices to make dumplings with lamb and other ingredients, and distribute them among the poor to keep them warm, to keep their ears from getting chilblains. Since the dumplings were shaped like ears, Zhang named the dish "qǜ hán jiāo ěr tāng" or dumpling soup that expels the cold. From that time on, it has been a tradition to eat dumplings on the day of Dongzhi.

Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day. There is always a grand reunion dinner following the sacrificial ceremony.

The festive food is also a reminder that we are now a year older and should behave better in the coming year. Even today, many Chinese around the world, especially the elderly, still insist that one is "a year older" right after the Dong Zhi celebration instead of waiting for the Chinese New Year.

Yup so now i know! I love getting in tough with my roots~

1 comment:

jam said...

Our version is a bit different. Read it here -


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