With sticky, buttery rice and sesame seeds, what’s not to love about tangyuan rice balls? Whether you indulge in this treat after a delicious dinner or would like to enjoy it as a simple snack, having more information about the history of this yummy treat will help you find even more joy in every mouthful.
A celebration of the new moon
This Chinese dish has been around since the Ming dynasty. Although there are many different names for tangyuan, it was originally called yuan xiao, which means ‘first evening’. It was called this to honour the tradition of eating these sweet treats: locals prepare the gelatinous balls for the celebration of the first full moon of the Chinese New Year.
A name that evoked emotion
The name of this dish was changed in the early 1900s by the leader of Southern China, Yuan Shikai, who believed that it sounded too similar to ‘remove Yuan’. The new name for this traditional dish wash changed to tangyuan, which translates to ’round balls in soup’.
How to prepare these dishes
There are two main different preparation methods for these desserts. The recipe used generally differs according to region. In the north, chefs make a filling from bean paste, sesame seeds or fruit preserve. The filling is then rolled into a ball and placed in a bamboo basket with rice flour. Water is then added to the mixture a little at a time and the chef shakes the basket until each piece of filling is coated in a dough. In the south, the preparation method is slightly different. Dough is made from gelatinous rice flour and water, which is then folded around the filling and crimped to form a ball. The rice ball is then placed in a sweet broth and boiled until cooked.
Enjoying these sweet treats
These balls are served in a deep bowl with the broth. You have the option to order plain white balls or a more colourful selection that have been dyed with food colouring. Diners who order this dish can choose from an assortment of fillings that include pieces of hard rock candy, peanuts or chocolate paste.
Although tangyuan is one of the most common treats at Chinese festivals, it is just as popular in Asian-style restaurants across the globe. This is great news for those of you who have a sweet tooth as you don’t need to control your cravings when they strike. Instead, you can place your order at restaurants such as Like Pudding. Here you can treat yourself to these rice balls served in a mouth-watering red bean soup.