Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yuan Xiao/Tang Yuan | 元宵/湯圓

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope your 2011's were full of learning, growth, and progress, and may your 2012's be even better.

These are yuan xiao, balls of glutinous rice* (sticky rice) flour with a sweet filling, one of my favorite dishes as a child. These ones I filled with sweet black sesame paste, a common variation. Other fillings include sweet red bean paste, peanut paste, or no paste at all, though in that case they tend to be smaller and called tang yuan (at least, that's how the distinctions run in my family). Yuan xiao is a traditional Chinese food to eat at new year's and the winter solstice. Actually, "yuan xiao", itself means "first evening".

You can have yuan xiao by themselves, without soup, or just with the hot water in which they were boiled, but I like them with sweet ginger soup, which you prepare separately. Don't worry, it's very simple and the flavors complement each other well. I followed this recipe from Rasa Malaysia.

yuan xiao, ready to freeze or cook

boiling until they float

ginger syrup


Bitten. Tender and delicious! I stayed safe with the thickness of the balls for fear of their breaking while cooking. Looks like I could have rolled them a touch thinner and been okay.

*Fear not, you of gluten allergies; glutinous rice does not contain gluten! It's just called "glutinous" because it's sticky.


  1. This is one of my absolute favorite desserts!

    1. Right?? One of my early childhood memories is of the first time I had one. I was totally skeptical, seeing the black paste my mom showed me oozing out of the ball. But once I bit into one, I was instantly converted.