Saturday, February 15, 2014

Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Tang Yuan) 汤圆

For Chinese New Year recently, I decided to make some glutinous rice dumplings, aka tang yuan, for the occasion. In past years, we've usually kept them plain or filled them with a mixture of chopped peanuts and shredded coconut. This year, I decided to try making sesame as well as peanut butter filled dumplings.

Sesame dumplings are another childhood dim sum favorite of mine, although they've since disappeared from most dim sum menus. For some reason, I've never thought to make my own, but they're actually super easy to make. They can also be made ahead of time, frozen, and then cooked when you want to eat them. I find they do taste a bit chewier when cooked fresh, though, so if you have the time to do that, you should. Otherwise, they're still delicious when cooked from frozen.
I like to roll the sesame dumplings in toasted soybean powder when they're done because that's how they used to serve them in restaurants, similar to mochi, but you can also make a sugar syrup to serve them with or just have them on their own. Toasted soybean powder can be found in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese stores since all three cultures make some version of glutinous rice dumplings dusted with soybean powder. You definitely need to serve these fresh though, so they don't really last much longer than 15 mins or so if serving dry, but you could probably keep them warm in a sugar syrup through dinner if you don't want to cook them last minute.

Interestingly, mochi made by steaming glutinous rice flour dough does last about a day and is good even when cold, but these tang yuan don't and aren't. I'm guessing mochi has a higher water content in comparison.

For this recipe, make the filling the day before you want to make the dumplings so it has time to set up. Then just make your dumpling dough, form the dumplings, and cook or freeze the next day. I won't include the peanut butter recipe here because I don't have exact measurements for it. I just blended up some peanuts in a food processor until smooth, added a bit of oil, and sugar to taste. Then I froze the mixture and formed balls of filling for assembly.

Tang Yuan
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
4 tbsp granulated sugar
Toasted soybean powder, optional

Place glutinous rice flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, pour the boiling water into the center of the glutinous rice flour and mix until you get a small mound of dough. Add in the cold water and mix until a smooth dough is formed. If the dough has cracks, add a bit more water.

Take a small ball of dough, slightly flatten, place a ball of filling in the center, and enclose. At this point, the dumplings can be frozen in a single layer before being placed in a sealed plastic bag for further storage.

When ready to cook, bring a pot of water to a low boil, drop the dumplings in and stir gently once in a while. The dumplings are ready when they float to the top. If cooking from frozen, let float for about a minute before removing. Serve in a sugar syrup or coat with toasted soybean powder before serving.

Sesame Filling
1/2 cup sesame powder or ground toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the ground sesame seeds and sugar. Stir to combine. After cooling for a bit, place mixture in the refrigerator to harden. Scoop out small balls of filling with a teaspoon or spoon and roll into a ball. Leave in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

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