Tang Yuan are glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame filling. They are usually eaten during the Chinese Lantern Festival (元宵节 Yuan Xiao Jie) on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year (today!) or for family reunions or celebrations. Though when I was 17 I went through a phase where I would walk home from school and go straight to the kitchen to eat tang yuan, celebration or no celebration. They are just that good. If you don’t want to make them yourself you will find them in the frozen section of a Chinese store.
Tang Yuan: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling
Makes about 15 mid-sized rice balls
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 10 min
For black sesame filling:
1 cup of toasted black sesame (I have store-bought ground black sesame)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 cup of water
Toast the black sesame in a pan or oven (detailed guide can be find here) and then ground them into a powder. Skip this step if you already have ground black sesame from the store.
In a bowl, mix black sesame powder with butter and sugar. Mix well. Set aside
Add the glutinous rice flour into a bowl and slowly add the water until it forms a solid ball. It is possible you won’t use all the water indicated in the ingredients. The shape and consistency of the ball is more important than using all the water.
Knead the dough until smooth and shape it into a long log. Cut it up in individual portions depending on how big the dough is. If this is your first time, your glutinous balls will end up on the larger side.
Take one piece and shape it into a mini bowl carefully, making sure that the bottom of the “bowl” is thicker than the sides. Scoop around 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. (depending on the bowl size) of black sesame filling into the center. Seal the rice ball completely.
Sometimes shaping the black sesame filling into the shape of a ball first will make things easier.
Shape the balls as round as you can but be careful, it is easy for the dough to break.
In a pot, bring water to a boil (enough water that it will cover the glutinous rice balls by at least an inch or two). Place the rice balls and let them cook for a few minutes until they start floating to the surface. That will mean that they are done.
Scoop out a few out with water and place in individual serving bowls. Some people like to add sugar or syrup but I personally like it plain.
You may freeze them for a month or two.