How To Make Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Tang Yuan)

How To Make Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Tang Yuan)

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When it’s time to celebrate the winter solstice during the Dongzhi Festival, it’s most traditional to eat the glutinous rice dumplings known as tang yuan. These small, round dumplings symbolize family unity, an important theme during a time of year when the seasons begin to tilt toward the warmth of spring.

Though tang yuan are served with myriad fillings, the dumplings eaten during the Dongzhi Festival are typically plain. The dumplings are normally dyed bright colors and are served in a bowl of sweet ginger-infused syrup.

While you can buy tang yuan at the store, they’re a snap to make at home. The dumpling dough takes just a few minutes to prepare and rolling the tang yuan balls is a fun family activity that young chefs will love. Set up around the kitchen table and put some music on in the background.

While glutinous rice dumplings are silky smooth and pleasantly chewy, they’re relatively tasteless themselves and act as a vessel for the flavor of their filling or the broth they’re served in. If you live in a colder region of the United States, I’m sure you’ll enjoy eating a bowl of tang yuan in a warming ginger syrup during the heart of winter.

Here’s how to make traditional glutinous rice dumplings, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.

Your turn! What tips can you share from your family’s recipe? Want to ask a question before you start cooking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


Traditional Glutinous Rice Dumplings Recipe

Makes: 40 Dumplings | Prep Time: 30 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Ingredients

Dumplings:
2 cups glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
red and yellow food coloring

Syrup:
4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2 thin slices of fresh ginger

Directions

1. Combine all the syrup ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Place the glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water, mix well, then knead the dough until smooth.

3. Divide the dough into three equal parts. Add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to one of the pieces, then knead until evenly colored. Repeat with the yellow food coloring.

3. Divide each piece of dough into 12-14 equal portions, each roughly the size of a one inch diameter marble. Gently roll each piece into the shape of a ball. Continue until all the dumplings are complete.

4. Bring a pot of water to a boil. In small batches, drop the dumplings into the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove and immediately plunge the dumplings into a bowl of iced water. Continue until all the dumplings are cooked.

5. Divide the warm syrup into serving bowls and add 5-10 dumplings to each bowl. Serve immediately.


Step-By-Step Tutorial

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Start by gathering your ingredients. You’ll need water, glutinous rice flour and a few drops of food coloring for the dough and water, sugar and ginger for the syrup. Optional, but bonus points awarded if you use Chinese rock sugar in place of granulated sugar.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Combine the syrup ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. The liquid should have the consistency of simple syrup, that is, thicker than water, but not as thick as honey.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Place the glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing all the while, until a smooth dough begins to form. The dough will go from clumpy and bone dry to sticky and unmanageable quickly — drizzle the water in slowly and monitor closely to make you sure you don’t overshoot. You’re aiming for a smooth, pasty dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Divide the dough into three equal parts. Add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to one of the pieces, then knead until evenly colored. Repeat with the yellow food coloring.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Divide each piece of dough into 12-14 equal portions, each roughly the size of a one inch diameter marble.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Gently roll each piece into the shape of a ball. Continue until all the dumplings are complete.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Bring a pot of water to a boil. In small batches, drop the dumplings into the boiling water. You’ll notice that the dumplings stick to the bottom of the pot when you drop them in.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Simmer the dumplings for 5 minutes until they float to the surface. (It’s pretty cool — the bubbles from the simmering water will actually shake the dumplings loose from the pot once they’re done cooking.) Remove and immediately plunge the dumplings into a bowl of iced water. Continue until all the dumplings are cooked.

Traditional Sweet Dumplings

Divide the warm syrup into serving bowls and add 5-10 dumplings to each bowl. Serve immediately.

HT: Recipe adapted from Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook.

4 Responses

  1. This brought back lots of memories when I was little in the 50s. It used to be a tradition in our family to make these that’s the time when we kids had so much fun making it with our cook from China. But we filled some palm sugar into the center of the dough so while eating it we’d have a sweet brown liquide with each bite, better than just the plain dough.

    • Hi Susan, your comment made my day. Thanks for sharing your memory! I’ve had tang yuan with black sesame seeds, peanuts and red bean paste inside, but palm sugar is new to me. Thanks for the suggestion and reply back if there are other fillings you enjoy!

  2. So nice recipe, I like the different colours of Glutinous Rice Dumplings. We always try the white ones.

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