Happy Chinese/Lunar New Years Eve! Today is the day before Chinese New Years and tradition has it that you feast out tonight, have a meatless New Years day to "cleanly" ring in the new year, and then continue on with the festivities (with meat this time)for the next two weeks. Now, my family is Cantonese, so I imagine the southern Chinese may do things a little differently than those in the north. I'm actually going over to my mom's today and she has the whole chicken and fish and pig - all prepared. I thought that might be too big of a feat for me to prepare and blog on (I'll try to take pictures), so I decided to make a traditional dessert called tang yoons or tang yuan in Mandarin instead. They're super easy and quick. You don't need a rolling pin or anything because it's all done in the palms of your hand.
Traditionally, tang yoons are eaten during Chinese New Year and also during the Lantern Festival which sort of closes the new year festivities. Tang yoons are glutinous rice balls with a sweet filling served in a bowl of syrup that's usually flavored with ginger. The fillings really range. Some people fill it with sweet red bean paste, while others prefer it simple and just add small pieces of rock sugar as the filling. My all time favorite is sweetened black sesame paste, but a close close second is peanut butter. I'm not sure how traditional peanut butter is, but I remember one year, my mom and I experimented and mixed peanut butter with small pieces of rock sugar and sesame for crunch. The result was amazing. And of course, nowadays, I see peanut butter flavored tang yoons at Chinatown all the time! But you can definitely have fun with these fillings and fill them with flavors you like. I find that it's best to have a bit of texture to the filling since the dough surrounding it is so soft.
Chinese Rock Sugar Bars (cut to small pieces for tang yoon)
Tips: A couple of tips before making this...
- Make sure you are buying "glutinous rice flour." Usually at Asian grocery stores, they sell a red bag that says "rice flour" and a green one that's glutinous rice flour. They give completely different results because the glutinous rice flour is much more starchy and also yields a much smoother dough.
- If you only bought 1 bag of glutinous rice flour, make sure to save a little bit towards the end. I'd say a bag of 16 oz. glutinous rice flour takes about a cup of water to get the right consistency dough. Sometimes it's a little less, sometimes it's a little more. Once your dough is too wet, you can only save it with more rice flour (so don't just dump the whole bag in, especially if this is your first time making it.) The end dough will still feel sticky, but when the proper consistency has been reached, the dough should no longer stick to your hands.
- Rice flour dough is a whole lot easier than working with wheat flour dough, because there isn't that gluten that makes your dough hard to work with. With this tang yoon dough, once you have it kneaded, you can work with it right away. I find that when mixing the dough with your hands, try using a "fist crunching" motion. I think that mixes it better. Once it starts turning into a ball of dough, then you can knead it a bit like you do wheat dough.
- Just like normal dumplings or raviolis, don't overfill them with filling. It makes the tang yoon very hard to close up...and even if you do close it up, they could explode while cooking.
- Mix 16 oz. glutinous rice flour with about a cup of water.
- Knead into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Prepare your fillings.
3.Take a small ball of dough and flatten it with your fingers. Put a small amount of filling it. Pull sides up and form back into a ball using the palms of your hands.
4.Start production line. One bag of rice flour makes about 25-30 tang yoons.
- If not cooking immediately, freeze tang yoons first and then store in bags.
6.If ready to cook, bring water, sugar and ginger slices to a boil. Put in tang yoons. When tang yoons float (which will be quick if fresh), they are ready.
Ingredients Makes 25-30 tang yoons)
Dough - 1 bag 16 oz. glutinous rice flour - 3/4 - 1 cup water
Peanut Butter Filling - 1/2 cup peanut butter - 1 bar Chinese rock sugar (cut into tiny pieces) - 2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Directions Preparing the Tang Yoons 1. Mix 1 bag of glutinous rice flour with water and knead to a ball. Cover with plastic wrap. 2. Mix together peanut butter, rock sugar pieces, and toasted sesame seeds. 3. Rip off a piece dough that is about a quarter size in diameter and flatten into a disk. 4. Using a small spoon, put in filling making sure to not overstuff. 5. Wrap up the filling by pulling sides of the dough up and using the palms of your hands, knead into a ball. 6. Continue this until you have used up the dough. The tang yoons can be frozen at this point and put into ziplock bags.
To Cook 1. Prepare a simple syrup using 1 part water and 1 part sugar. 2. Add several slices of ginger and bring to boil. 3. Once water boils, add in tang yoons. When they float, it is ready to eat. 4. Serve tang yoons in a bowl topped with some of the ginger syrup.