A Bowl of Glutinous Rice Balls

What is Tang Yuan (汤圆), you may wonder? Tang Yuan a.k.a Glutinous Rice Balls (for those of my readers who may have difficulty in pronoucing the Hanyu Pinyin version) is a traditional Chinese food made from glutinous rice flour. The flour is mixed with a specific proportion of water to form a dough. And the the dough is divided into small little balls (not too small please!) and then cooked and served in boiling water.

They are traditionally eaten during Yuanxiao, or the Lantern Festival.

In recent times, these little balls of glutinous flour has been filled inside, with sesame paste, peanut paste even chocolate to pander to the ever-changing Singaporean diet and taste preference. (I heard there are savoury versions, but I don't recalled eating them before. Unless it's a non-soup version.) And the boiling water? It's no longer just plain boiling water anymore. There's 2 types now, either the clear and sweet version or the soy milk with boiled peanuts version, like the photo I uploaded above.

A Tang Yuan by any other name would taste just as great
In southern China, these little balls of glutinous flour are called Tang Tuan (汤团). There's a peculiar legend that during Yuan Shikai's rule from 1912 to 1916, he disliked the name Yuan Xiao (元宵) because it sounded too identical to "Remove Yuan" (袁消). And so, he decreed that Yuan Xiao (元宵) to be changed to Tang Yuan (汤圆) instead.

This new name literally means "Round Balls in Soup". Tang Tuan (汤团) similarly means "Round Dumplings in Soup". For Cantonese speaking folks like me, Tang Yuan is pronounced as Tong Yun.

Round Little Balls of Flour
For many Chinese/Mandarin-speaking families all over the world, Tang Yuan (汤圆) is normally eaten together with family. Why? The round shape of the glutinous rice balls and the bowl they come served in, in tradition, meant and symbolise family togetherness.

Personally, I prefer the soy milk and boiled peanuts version. It's filling enough to treat it as a meal, especially if you just don't want to eat a bowl of rice everday. A bowl of Tang Yuan can help fill you up without the fullness of a bowl of rice.

When it comes to Glutinous Rice Balls, which type are your favorite?


Riih Rion is bashful when facing cameras and video-cams. But she soon realized she is more comfortable behind a PC screen than in front of a lens. Riih is passionate about beauty products, paranormal & folk lore from anywhere in the world and sushi. Especially sushi. Come visit her blogs or drop her a comment :D

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