Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dong Zhi Festival

Today marks the start of the Winter Solstice festival that is celebrated by all Chinese. Traditionally in China, this signified that it is time to get ready for winter. It also meant that the all important Chinese New Year festival is just around the corner and preparations should be made for the festivities. These past few days, I noticed that the traders have started putting out all the usual New Year goodies and restaurants are even hanging out Yee Sang banners. Usually families get together for a meal and make glutinous rice balls known as tong yuen which symbolises reunion. The tong yuen is usually plain or stuffed with various fillings like peanuts, black sesame seeds or brown sugar. It is also served piping hot with syrup made from ginger or pandan leaves with brown sugar or soya bean milk. Some also believe that when you eat tong yuen, it means you have grown one year older.

In my family, this used to be celebrated with a dinner with the relatives and the kids helping out to make the tong yuen but nowadays, this tradition seems to have been abandoned. Nevertheless, I still in my own little way celebrate with eating tong yuen. This year, I decided to be a bit different and made my own varieties rather than just buying them ready made.

The first variety is a cold one which extremely unusual as the tong yuen is usually served with piping hot sweet syrup. Inspiration came from the
Y3k magazine that has receipes from various restaurants around Malaysia. This receipe came from a restaurant located in Ipoh, Perak. For my tong yuen, instead of making my own from scratch, I bought some pandan flavoured dough from the wet market. Although the recipe does ask to stuff a coconut piece in the tong yuen, I found that these ones don't really have much taste compared to the plain ones. Tastewise, using the coconut water was a great idea as it was refreshing. It's also pretty easy to assemble as you can always get the coconut water from any fruit vendor or stall.

Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Water

300 grams glutinous rice floir
2 tbsps icing sugar
150 grams water
A few drops of colouring (optional)
3 young green coconuts (keep the water chilled and the sliced flesh into pieces)

Dice a small portion of the coconut flesh as the filling. Make sure it is dry as it will affect the texture of the rice ball when added into it.

Place the glutinous rice flour, icing sugar, water and colouring (if using) into a food processor. Knead into a dough and divide into smaller portions. Flatten the dough and wrap in a little of the coconut flesh as a filling. Seal edges and roll it into round balls.

Cook the rice balls in a pot of boiling water (make sure it is a large pot of water). Scoop them up once they have floated up to the surface. Serve rice balls with chilled coconut water and remaining coconut flesh slices.

The second variety is a stuffed tong yuen with a salted egg and peanut filling served with a hot ginger broth or pandan flavoured syrup. Making the filling is pretty easy but takes a bit of time as you need to chill it in the fridge to harden. You don't really taste the salted egg yolks at all and the addition of toasted sesame seeds and preserved winter melon in the peanut filling makes it much nicer than the usual peanut stuffed tong yuen. For the hot syrup accompanying it, you can either use ginger to cook it or pandan leaves depending on your preference. This time round I used pandan leaves as I was out of ginger. You can freeze the remaining tong yuen for future meals. This receipe is from Agnes Chang, a popular Malaysian cook and was taken from the bi-monthly Yum Yum magazine which also publishes the ever popular Hawkers Fair cookbooks in Malaysia.

Glutinous Rice Balls with Salted Egg Yolk and Peanut Filling

60 grams salted butter, melted
4 salted egg yolks, steamed for 10 minutes and mashed with a fork
125 grams peanuts, stir fried until fragrant, skin removed and ground
60 grams sesame seeds, stir fried until fragrant and ground
60 grams preserved winter melon, chopped

300 grams glutinous rice flour
125 ml boiling water
some cold water


1000ml water
150 grams brown sugar or gula melaka
3 pieces pandan leaves, knotted

Combine all the ingredients and chill in the fridge for 3 hours or until firm. (Note that you should thoroughly mix all of the ingredients - I mashed up the preserved winter melon also) Remove and divide into small portions and shape into balls. Put glutinous rice flour into a mixing bowl, pour in boiling water and stir into a half cooked dough.Slowly add in cold water and knead into a pliable dough. Alternatively you can purchase ready made glutinous rice flour dough from the wet markets during this festival. Divide dough into small portions and wrap up filling. Shape into balls.

Put water, brown sugar and pandan leaves into a pot and cook until the brown sugar has melted and the syrup is aromatic. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the glutinous rice balls until it floats up. Then cook for another 1 minute before scooping it up and serving it with the syrup. This needs to be served hot.

Happy Dong Zhi Festival!

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*kel said...

wow, i didn't even know it's dong zhi today. well, there are some DI YI JIA-branded frozen tang yuan sold in asian grocery stores here in Barcelona. I'll go get some tomorrow. But I don't think I can find pandan leaves. Maybe I'll do a ginger version.

boo_licious said...

Happy Dongzhi to you Kel! Those frozen tang yuan are pretty yummy too, I often eat them at home too.

Chen said...

Happy Dong Zhi festival.
So fast, now is toward the end of the year already..

I guess it's nice eating the tang yuan together with the fresh coconut water.
Very refreshing.
Nowadays, there are so many different ways to serve tang yuan :)

Mark said...

Happy Dong Zhi Festival to all.
I just found this blog and wow! The owner had put some great effort on it!

I have my little blog as well. Hope could exchange some note on good food :)

rokh said...

boo, i did my own tang yuan for the first time too. i made the plain ones and also pumpkin glutinous rice balls in sweet ginger pandan soup. happy dong zhi! now i'm older a year!

boo_licious said...

chen - yes, so many varieties. I read the Star tday and I am mind boggled with the different types.

mark tham - hey, I have been to your blog before, nice blog too. Was meaning to feature it this coming week in my blog review.

rokh - wow! that sounds nice esp the pumpkin ones. I ate quite a bit of tang yuan so I think I am ancient now!

jesscet said...

I just knew u would blog about tang yuen (in mandarin)!

Coincidentally i had green ones (like the 1st pic) and also the normal white ones last nite. It was the first time i had green ones - normally had pink ones. My dad bought the prepared dough from market and we just made them into small balls. But the soup can't last till the next day...

glutton rabbit said...

Wow, such unique tang yuen recipes. I would love to try the one in coconut water :p~~~

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