Winter solstice is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese. On the day of winter solstice, we have to make and eat “tang yuan”, glutinous rice balls, as a symbolism of reunion, wholesome, and I was used to be told that I can add one year of my age after eating tang yuan when I was a kid.
The tang yuan are always made the night before, and cooked in the next morning. It always consists of white and red, which is just food coloring, to make it prettier. Besides family gathering, it’s a tradition for Taiwanese to use this festive food as an offering dish to worship the ancestors.
There are various versions of the story behind eating tang yuan on the day of winter solstice. However, I don’t remember my parents telling me any, so if you are interested, you can look it up and let me know!
Tang yuan are simply made with glutinous rice flour and water, and served with hot sugary soup. Here’s how my mother makes it.
- 150g Glutinous rice flour
- 120g Cold water
- 250g Red beans
- 1 L Cold water
- 40g Brown sugar (Sweetness can be adjusted to taste, and replaced by any sweetener)
- Combine the water and glutinous rice flour in a large mixing bowl
- Add the water gradually, use the hand to form a dough until soft and smooth
- Divide the dough into 3-5 portions equally
- Roll the dough into an elongated shape
- Divide it into small chunks (around 2 cm each)
- Shape the dough to even-sized balls
- Bring a pot of water to boil (enough to submerge the tang yuan)
- Add the tang yuan into the boiling water, cook until they float to the surface
- Set it aside
- Soak the red beans for at least 3-4 hours
- Discard the water, and put beans in a large pot
- Add fresh water to the spot (around 2 inches above the beans)
- Turn down to medium heat once the water boils
- Add the brown sugar
- Cook for approximately 30 minutes, stir occasionally
- Turn off the heat when you reach the consistency you like
- Combine the tang yuan and red bean soup, and enjoy!
2. Any sweet soup would do, such as pure sugar and water