Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A common Chinese dessert is Tangyuan, or glutinous rice balls. They've got to come up with a better name because 'glutinous' and 'balls' together doesn't sound so appetizing (ok maybe a few of you need to wipe the drool from your mouth, but only a few of you) . Actually, it's a popular dessert in various Asian cultures, although each culture has different adaptation of this. The version I've made here is very simple and easy to make if you take a few shortcuts. The cooking time will vary depending on how you prepare your filling, and if you make a syrup or not. Since the recipe will vary according to how much you want to make and what you want to put as your fillings, I'll provide only a simple explanation:

Start with the glutinous rice flour- Using about 1 cup of flour will yield about a dozen filled balls.
Mix cold water slowly into the flour, enough to form a stiff dough.

Your fillings can be either savory or sweet, in this case sweet- depends on how you like your balls! Examples of typical fillings include peanuts, sesame paste or mung bean paste (as I used). In this case, the red mung bean paste was bought from the Asian market pre-made, but can also be made by soaking mung beans in water over night. Then blanching the mung beans and removing the skin, and finally mashing the beans into a paste with sugar (or if you're really awesome you'll grow your own organic mung beans first).
I would recommend portioning small marble sized balls of filling and then freezing them on a baking sheet. This makes it much easier to encase in the dough when it comes time to wrap them. Using about a large marble-sized ball of dough, flatten into a pancake in your palm. Place the filling in the center, and gently wrap dough around the filling to seal. Avoid tears in the dough or else the filling will come out when boiled.

Next, boil the balls in water for approximately 3 minutes. If you'd like to eat them in a syrup, syrup can be easily made by melting brown or white sugar in a saucepan, adding aromatics, like ginger, orange peel, or star anise.

The last time I made this, I rolled the balls in flaked coconut, making them easier finger food. Next time I want to try the Japanese version with salty balls, and maybe fill 'em with smoked salmon or avocado inside. Suggestions for other filling combinations welcome :)

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