Sunday, December 18, 2005

冬至 Winter Solstice

Dong Zhi(冬至) falls on this coming Thursday, which is 22nd December 2005. Dong Zhi is called Winter Solstice in English. if you are keen to read up on the Chinese tradition of celebrating Dong Zhi or Winter Solstice Festival, see here. Tang Yuan(汤圆) is the special dessert served for this festival. As I have already said here that Dong Zhi falls on this Thursday, but I cooked Tang Yuan today as I couldn't wait till that day. Hubby might have to go overseas on Wednesday and hopefully be back by Christmas Eve. I just pray hard that things turn up well or there is a change in plans for the next three days, so he doesn't have to make the trip.

Alright, back to the topic of Tang Yuan. My mum has two versions of Tang Yuan. One is less sinful, whereas another one is extremely sinful. She used to serve the less sinful version many years ago until... (can't recall). I can't remember when was the time she came out with this extremely sinful version, which most of us couldn't resist, for Chinese New Year. Making Tang Yuan has always brought back fond memories of the past when my siblings and I helped my mum to roll the glutinous rice balls in the kitchen. It seems like yesterday yet so long ago... *sigh*

My mum's Tang Yuan is special in a way that it can be served at any time as desired without having the glutinous rice balls turning soggy in the soup. The cooked glutinous rice balls are coated with some sugar and set aside, only to combine with the hot soup or hot syrup and cooked beans, when served. She likes to use the type of orange sugar for the whole recipe. The sugar though orange in colour is actually called brown sugar. I chose to cook the extremely sinful version for my family today.

Tang Yuan (Extremely sinful version)

Serves 4 - 5

Ingredients for glutinous rice balls:
250g glutinous rice flour
15-20g brown sugar
food colouring (usually pink)


Add sufficient water to flour and knead into dough.

Divide dough into 2 parts. Add food colouring to one part. Knead each dough well.

Make balls from the dough.

Bring water to boil in a big pot and drop in dough balls to cook. When cooked, balls rise to the surface.

Drain balls and put in a big bowl. Add about 15-20g of sugar to mix with the balls. Set aside.

Ingredients for syrup:
300ml water
4-5 pandan leaves, washed and tied into a knot
2-inch knob ginger, crushed (more if desired to give a strong ginger taste)
abt 100g brown sugar

Method for syrup:

Bring water to boil in a pot with the pandan leaves and ginger.

Add sugar and cook till sugar dissolves.

Discard pandan leaves and ginger.

Ingredients for the beans:

Brown sugar (tho' orange in colour):

Brown beans:

Dried mandarin orange skin (Chen pi):

Ingredients for beans - the lighter colour type (Chia Dao in Hokkien) :
200g brown beans
600ml hot water
100g brown sugar
some dried mandarin orange skin (chen pi)

Method for cooking beans:

Simmer in the slow cooker for 2-3 hours. Add sugar when beans are cooked. Keep warm until served. The brown beans won’t break into bits when cooked, that's the reason for choosing it instead of the normal red beans. Brown beans look like red beans but lighter in colour.

To serve:

Put cooked glutinous rice balls into individual bowls. Add cooked beans and hot syrup as desired. As this is extremely sweet, we only eat the chewy glutinous rice balls and the cooked beans. The strong ginger taste in the syrup makes this special.


For the less sinful version, the ingredients and method for cooking the glutinous rice balls are the same as above. The difference is the soup used instead of the syrup and cooked beans.

Ingredients for soup:
abt 600ml water
4 –5 pandan leaves, washed and tied into a knot
2-inch knob ginger, crushed
sugar to taste (preferably brown sugar)

Method for soup:

Bring water to boil in a pot with the pandan leaves and ginger.

Add sugar to taste and cook till sugar dissolves.

Discard pandan leaves and ginger.

To serve:

Put cooked glutinous rice balls into individual bowls. Pour hot soup and serve.

Note from Tazz as at 22nd January 2006: I have finally found the actual name for the orange sugar and beans. They are called brown sugar and brown beans respectively.


  • At Sunday, 18 December, 2005, Blogger rokh said…

    oh thank you thank you for the tang yuan recipe. been thinking of celebrating here with my friends! away from home, sigh

  • At Monday, 19 December, 2005, Blogger Little Corner of Mine said…

    Wah Tazz, you really cooked your tang yuan already. That bowl looks really filling leh. I'm still not sure to make it or not...*lazy me*

  • At Monday, 19 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    After reading this post, I also feel like making Tang Yuan. I've never made them before but would very much like to try it :) btw, our American winter solstice falls on wed the 21st instead of 22nd!

  • At Monday, 19 December, 2005, Blogger Tazz said…

    Hey guys, making Tang Yuan is fun and easy. I only make Tang Yuan once a year. For other occasions I usually buy the frozen Tang Yuan from supermarket.

    My children like to eat Tang Yuan so much, be it homemade or frozen type from stores.

  • At Tuesday, 20 December, 2005, Blogger fooDcrazEE said…

    i dont have to make...neighbour its easier..too lazy to make as i dont like them cept for the liquid..loys of ginger..yummy

  • At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Blogger Jas said…

    I love your sinful version lol.*Drool*

  • At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Blogger Tazz said…

    Mike, you are right! The soup is nice with lots of ginger.

    Jas, we are always attracted to sinful food! *lol*

  • At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Blogger Fonia said…

    Eve, So sweet of you... I'm thinking of making some Tang Yuan this year. Your recipe shared juz in time!!! Thank you so much...;)

  • At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Anonymous eugene said…

    less sinful version is healthier and still nice, especially the plain tung yuan without any filling~

  • At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Blogger Tazz said…

    Hope the recipe doesn't disappoint anybody who uses it! *lol*

    Eugene? Haha! you eat any Tang Yuan, be it sinful or not! Don't forget the Tang Yuan song in your childhood that I made you sing so that you got to eat the Tang Yuan. *lol* Must sing that 卖汤圆 song when you come home tomorrow, k? :)

  • At Thursday, 22 December, 2005, Blogger Chen said…

    Happy Dong Zhi Festival :)
    Your extremely sinful version of tang yuan looks yummy..

  • At Thursday, 22 December, 2005, Blogger Tazz said…

    Thanks Chen! Happy Dong Zhi Festival to you as well! :)

  • At Monday, 02 January, 2006, Anonymous tabehodai said…

    Happy New Year!
    I'm in Japan and we celebrate dong zhi on 22 December. We eat pumpkin on this day. It is the shortest day of the year, and the sun set really quickly. But interestingly, this phenomena happened on 21 December and not 22 Dec. There was also heavy snowfall where I lived and it was extremely cold.

  • At Monday, 02 January, 2006, Blogger Tazz said…

    Hello tabehodai,

    Happy New Year!
    Interesting phenomena that you had mentioned. I had never observed the sun set time for all the Dong Zhi. I was more concerned about whether it rained on that day.

    When I was a kid, my mum told my siblings and I that if it rained on Dong Zhi, then there wouldn't be any rain on Chinese New Year. I knew it wasn't true, because most of the time, it rained on both ocassions. But, I still hoped for a rainy day on Dong Zhi so that a sunny Chinese New Year would be conveneient to go visitings. *lol*

  • At Monday, 02 January, 2006, Anonymous tabehodai said…

    this is what the wikipedia has to say about dong zhi
    Maybe in Singapore, being so close to the equator, the shortest day phenomena doesn't apply? I'm not sure, maybe you can try to take note at the end of this year!

    Now that you've mentioned about the weather, I seemed to have heard of that one too. That means the weather will be good in Japan on CNY then. These days hardly anyone celebrate the Lunar New Year which is on the same day as CNY. I don't think the young people even know about it.

    I look forward to your posts leading up to CNY!

  • At Monday, 02 January, 2006, Blogger Tazz said…

    Hi tabehodai,

    Thanks for the link! :)

    Talking about celebrating Chinese New Year, I have mixed feelings. Happy because I will be seeing those close to me again. But, I really hate the spring cleaning part which is a must! *lol* I have never done any baking before late 2005. As I am still a novice baker, don't think I will do much in this area.

    I think I enjoy the days leading to CNY rather than CNY itself. Going around shopping and soaking up the festive spirit when all shopping centres, especially Chinatown, are all fully decorated for the ocassion. BUT, on CNY itself, all shopping centres are like ghost towns! Hahaha...

  • At Saturday, 14 January, 2006, Blogger db said…

    Hi Taz,

    This is Diana from Diana's Desserts website. I would love to use your (sinful) version of your Tang Yuan in my next newsletter that I send out by email. I will be sending it out around February 5th or 7th, just in time for the Lantern Festival and Valentine's Day. May I have your permission to print your recipe and use your photo of Tang Yuan, giving you credit for the recipe and photo, of course? It looks wonderful.

    Please email me back and let me know, ok. My email address is:

    Sincerely, Diana
    Diana's Desserts

  • At Saturday, 14 January, 2006, Blogger Tazz said…

    Hi Diana,

    I have already replied you by email! :)


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