Tang Yuan Chinese Sweet Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling Recipe by Kwanghi Chan
Tang yuan, or sweet soup dumplings, are most traditionally served during the Lantern festival in the autumn, but they are made any time the family gets together, which includes the New Year. In China, families are often scattered, over hundreds of miles, and so a family get together is a worthwhile event. Tang means soup. Yuan means round, but it also implies togetherness. Like jiao-zi, The making of tang yuan is a family affair, done by children and grandparents alike.
The Chinese are not renowned for desserts, but tang yuan are delicious. Made from glutinous rice, they are pearly-hued, slightly sweet and sticky. They enclose a variety of fillings, the most popular which are lotus seed, peanut, date, and red bean. Kwanghi’s favourite filling, however, is the toasted, nutty, soul-warming black sesame.
– 58 g roasted black sesame seeds
– 86 g caster sugar
– 6 tablespoons softened coconut oil (not melted!)
– 235 ml + more for dusting sweet rice flour, also known as glutinous rice flour
– 118 ml warm water
1. In a food processor or blender or a coffee grander, finely grind the sesame seeds. Add the caster sugar and use a spatula to mix together in the food processor a bit. Then add the coconut oil and pulse for 10 seconds at a time until the mixture is well combined.
2. Scoop everything out into a bowl and make into small ball about 2cm. put on a tray and in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. The purpose of this cooling process is to harden the mixture slightly for easy handling later.
3. While the filling is cooling, make the dough. Put the sweet rice flour into a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the warm water, while stirring to form a dough. The dough can’t be too wet, or it will not hold its shape. Cover with a damp towel.
4. Now boil some water in a small pot, take out a small piece Of the dough, about 1” in diameter. Add it to the boiling water and cook the piece of dough until it floats. Scoop it out and add it to the rest of the dough.
5. Mix the two parts together until the dough is soft and smooth. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 18 grams each, if you want to be really exacting), and roll them into balls. Keep the dough and dough balls covered with a damp paper towel while making them
6. Take out the filling after it’s cooled for 30 minutes. It should be slightly hard, but still workable. Roll the filling into small marble-sized balls, about 4 to 5 grams each. Then take each dough ball and flatten into a circle about 2 inches in diameter.
7. Add the filling to the centre, and close the dough over the filling. Roll the ball around in your hands until it’s smooth and round. Repeat until all the sesame balls are made. Cover the remaining filling and return to the refrigerator for later if there is some left!
8. While you are assembling, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the sesame balls and stir immediately to prevent them from sticking. Adding the sesame balls will cool down the water temperature significantly, so once the water comes back up to a boil, and simmer, watching the water slowly turning until cooked through, normally this will take 7 mins, use the back of the spoon to gently move around the pot and not bursting them.
9. Serve in a bowl with the cooking liquid sweetened with a bit of brown sugar & Ginger (optional).
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Donegal, Kwanghi Chan is the Hospitality Development Chef for BaxterStory. He launched his unique Asian flavoured ChanChan sauce in 2016, and is also brand ambassador for Amoy Food.
He regularly features in TV shows including RTE’s Today Show and TV3’s 6 O’Clock Show, and hosts cookery demonstrations at Cooks Academy. Prior to his role with BaxterStory, Kwanghi worked in the Terrace Restaurant, The City West Hotel and Waterford’s Cliff House Hotel.