Tang Yuan is Chinese glutinous rice balls or sweet dumplings. It has a homophone for union and is served a dessert on Winter Solstice Festival (Dongzhi), Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao) and sometimes on the Chinese wedding day. It is a ball of glutinous rice flour and water that has been boiled and served in syrup or served coated with peanut powder and powdered sugar. It can be unfilled or filled with peanut or sesame or other fillings depends on liking. My mom always serves it unfilled and coated with thick peanut powder and powdered sugar. Sometimes we mix the ball with other ingredients like sweet potatoes to give the natural colours to tang yuan. There is a saying that you should eat the tang yuan in an amount that equates to your age.
First, we prepared glutinous rice flour, sweet potatoes, water and sugar. The skin of sweet potatoes was peeled after washing them thoroughly. The sweet potatoes were then cut into small pieces to increase the heating surface while boiling them later. The sweet potatoes were boiled in water added with sugars to cook until they are tender and soft. The sweet potatoes were moved to a bowl. The broth was put aside for later use. The sweet potatoes were smashed completely with spoons and forks until smooth. The completely smashed sweet potatoes were mixed with an adequate amount of glutinous rice flour and water. Do not ask me about the adequate amount because my answer is “agak-agak” like how my mom always answers me. The water used can be warm or room temperature. It depends on experience and the voice in your head. Then, the water was added slowly while mixing them mixed well into the dough with spoon or hands. I prefer using hands but remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap before touching the food to be.
Later, we started to pinch off the dough and roll them into small balls. The size depends on your liking. I did not prepare the filling so just patiently rolling pinches of dough into balls. If you prepare the fillings beforehand, you can fill the glutinous rice ball with either sweet or savoury fillings. Peanut butter, black sesame seeds or red bean pastes are the common fillings for tang yuan. I heard of the savoury fillings containing meat, mushroom and green vegetables but I never try them. The savoury fillings are enwrapped in the glutinous rice dough like dumplings. You need to prepare other broth for tang yuan with savoury fillings.
Finally, I put all those unfilled glutinous rice balls in the sweet potato broth previously and boil them to cook them for several minutes until they floated in the broth. I tasted the broth to adjust the sweetness. If you feel the glutinous rice ball is not tender enough, you can boil them for a longer time but extended boiling may make it overcooked and swell up. You may add pieces of cooked sweet potatoes or sagos or other toppings you want to enrich the taste of the desserts. I served the tang yuan in sweet potato broth because I did not buy peanut powder. If you want to try, you can mix some peanut powder with powdered sugar and roll the cooked glutinous rice ball in them before serving. They are delicious!