Today is “yuan xiao” (元宵) which is the 15th and last day of Chinese New Year. Happy 元宵! It is a tradition to eat tang yuan or glutinous rice balls (汤圆) which literally means “round dumplings in sweet soup” on this day. Other than yuan xiao, tang yuen is also eaten during auspicious family celebrations and Winter solstice aka “dong zhi” (冬至), which usually falls on the 21st or 22nd of December.
The round and sticky dumpling balls symbolise family closeness and togetherness. This is a making tang yuan from scratch, as I like playing with the dough. I also think the mini, multi-coloured balls are really cute to look at. Making your own tang yuan is really fun especially if you can gather your family to help shape the balls together.
Gradually add water and knead the dough until soft, smooth, easily kneadable (pictured) yet not sticky to the fingers (too wet), nor crumbling (too dry). The amount of flour & water is very forgiving and adaptable – If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more flour.
Divide the dough depending on the number of different colours you intend to make (I divided mine to four equal portions). Add food colouring, one drop at a time, to each portion and knead until the colour is well distributed. Note: I am using red dye for pink, pandan paste for green and I mix red + yellow food colourings for orange.
Shape the dough to even-sized balls. Tip: Anytime the dough feels dry, dip your fingers in water before shaping them.
Uncooked tang yuan in various colours.
Bring a pot of water (enough water to submerge the dumplings completely) to boil. Add the tang yuan into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. Transfer them immediately to a bowl of room temperature water to cool down. This prevents the tang yuan from sticking to one another or discolour the soup, especially helpful if you are not serving immediately.
Add ingredients for sweet soup (糖水) in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until the sugar is fully melted. To serve, add cooked tang yuen to a serving bowl and ladle the sweet soup over.