Today is Winter Solstice Festival or Dongzhi (冬至) Festival. This is a festival observed by Chinese, and other East Asians like Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese.
For the first time since I left my birthplace, I made some tangyuan (glutinuous rice balls) for this occasion. In the past I used to just pick up a packet of ready-made ones from the supermarket near where I live.
When I was a young kid, there was no supermarket in my small hometown (but there are a few now). Neither was there ready-made tangyuan available for sales. So, it was mostly a once-a-year affair when it came to eating tangyuan.
These days, tangyuan can be easily made using dry glutinuous rice flour. I remember in my late grandma’s time, she used to make them using wet dough available only from the wet market. The dough had to be put in a bag made of cloth, be pressed for many hours (at times, overnight) using heavy-weight materials such as stone mortar and pestel to drain out the water, before kneading and shaping it into small balls. Now, I wonder why she (and most people) didn’t use dry glutinuous rice flour then. Typically, tangyuan was plain, i.e. without any filling like ground peanuts or black sesame, and consisted of white and pink colours (by use of colouring). Sweet ginger soup made using white or palm sugar, was used to cook the Tangyuan.
These days, with so much of creativity out there, there are many variations of tangyuan, like those in the two photos below which I received from a friend.
I think these are too cute to be eaten!
I know I am far from having the needed skills for such creativity. So it is only practical to keep to the typical plain tangyuan (i.e. without any filling) but with a bit of twist in terms of the colours. Instead of using 100% glutinuous rice flour, I decided to use a mixture of flour and other ingredients – purple sweet potatoes, pumpkin, huaishan (nagaimo in Japanese), and green tea powder. This explains my bowl of colourful tangyuan, all from natural colours. 🙂
I made sweet red dates soup to suit DS’s preference.
Instead of cooking the tangyuan directly in the red dates soup which would make the soup look cloudy, I first cooked them in plain water in a separate pot, let them cool in a bowl of ice water, then only transferred them to the soup and bring to boil.
Tangyuan in clear red dates soup
Chinese has this saying, 吃了汤圆又长一岁，meaning one year older after eating tangyuan on Dongzhi. Oh dear, I am another year older now!
Anyway, happy Dongzhi Festival!