Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Tang Yuan

Servings: 4-5
The Lantern or Yuan Xiao Festival is one of the traditional Chinese festivals. It is popularly referred to as Chinese Valentine's Day and takes place on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. It also marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

The Chinese first celebrated the Lantern Festival during the Han Dynasty ( 206BC-221AD).

Lanterns became a part of the celebrations and now, home and public areas are filled with lanterns in traditional designs such as the typical red, spherical design as well as designs based on butterflies, dragons, birds and other animals. These create bright and colourful displays during the evening and night.

Food to Celebrate Lantern Festival

Tang Yuan and Yuan Xiao are a traditional food for the Lantern Festival. They are glutinous rice balls made of glutinous rice flour rolled round with varieties of sweet fillings such as black sesame paste, peanut paste, red bean paste or lotus paste to name a few. These sweet dumplings are often cooked in a red bean dessert or slab sugar with a piece of ginger to make a soup.

These round shaped Tang Yuan or sometimes called Yuan Xiao (sweet dumplings) symbolise family unity, completeness and happiness to mark the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Ingredients for Glutinous Rice Balls:
250g (8 to 9 ounces) glutinous rice flour
15-20g (1/2 to 3/4 ounce) sugar (orange type)
Food colouring (usually pink)

Method for Glutinous Rice Balls:
Add sufficient water to flour and knead into dough. Divide dough into 2 parts. Add food colouring to one part. Knead each dough well. Make balls from the dough. Bring water to boil in a big pot and drop in dough balls to cook. When cooked, balls will rise to the surface. Drain balls and put in a big bowl. Add about 15-20g of sugar to mix with the balls. Set aside.

Ingredients for Syrup:
300ml (10 ounces) water
4-5 pandan leaves, washed and tied into a knot* (see note from Diana's Desserts below)
2-inch knob ginger, crushed (more if desired to give a strong ginger taste)
About 100g (3 1/2 ounces) sugar (orange type)

Method for Syrup:
Bring water to boil in a pot with the pandan leaves* (see note from Diana's Desserts) and ginger. Add sugar and cook until sugar dissolves. Discard pandan leaves (if using) and ginger.

*Note from Diana's Desserts:
If you cannot find pandan leaves where you live, you may substitute with pandan extract or essence to flavor the syrup. Pandan extract or essence may be found in Asian food stores in the United States.

Ingredients for Red Beans (the lighter colour type: Chia Dao in Hokkien)
200g adzuki or lighter colour pinkish type beans
600ml (approximately 20 ounces) hot water
100g (3 1/2 ounces) sugar (orange type)
A few pieces of chen pi (pieces of dried mandarin orange skin)

Method for Cooking Beans:
Simmer beans and chen pi in hot water in the slow cooker for 2-3 hours. Add sugar when beans are cooked. Keep warm until served. These pinkish colour beans won't break into bits when cooked, that's the reason for choosing these type of beans instead of the normal red beans.

To Serve:
Put cooked glutinous rice balls into individual bowls. Add cooked beans and hot syrup as desired. As this is extremely sweet, we only eat the chewy glutinous rice balls and the cooked beans. The strong ginger taste in the syrup makes this special.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

From Diana's Desserts:
Where to Buy Ingredients
Some of the ingredients used in this recipe for Tang Yuan, such as the glutinous rice flour, the pinkish red beans, the orange sugar, pandan leaves or pandan essence or extract, chen pi (dried mandarin orange skin) may be difficult to find in the United States or in countries other then Asia. I recommend looking for some of the these more unusual ingredients in your town or city's Asian food stores or markets.

Submitted By: Evelyn Chng
Date: January 15, 2006