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This tang yuan recipe is all about chewy glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame paste swimming in a comforting warm and sweet ginger tea. It's a popular Chinese dessert during the Winter Solstice Festival, and the Lantern Festival.
If you follow my articles in published date order, I know it looks like I'm making a lot of recipes using glutinous rice flour. And I have a reason for that - I've purchased an embarrassingly massive amount of sweet (glutinous) rice flour! Here are more glutinous rice flour recipes, including ube butter mochi!
What is Tang Yuan?
Tang yuan symbolizes both wholeness and togetherness. It's a festive dessert you eat at different occassions and holidays. When eaten, they are supposed to give you good luck and happiness moving forward.
You can read more about tang yuan at our friend Wikipedia's page for its rich history. What I love about it is that this now dessert went through several changes over the generations, but its symbol for completeness and togetherness remains.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
You'll enjoy eating tang yuan if you love comfort food, nuts, black sesame, and the same consistency as mochi. The ginger tea that comes with this recipe is actually optional, and you can simply eat tang yuan served in warm water. Cause let's be honest, the chewiness is where it's at!
This is by no means a classically traditional tang yuan recipe. I've made several iterations over the years, and this version wins in my book because of its easy-to-find ingredients.
Ingredients for Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls
You don't need many ingredients and most of them can easily be found online or at your local Asian grocery store.
- Glutinous Rice Flour
- Black Sesame Seeds
- Granulated Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Fresh Ginger
- Pecans: I chose pecans for this recipe because I find them sweeter than peanuts. Feel free to swap out the pecans with traditional ingredient of peanuts.
- Brown Sugar: The traditional version of tang yuan calls for rock sugar, which can be found at Asian stores. Use twice as much rock sugar as brown sugar in this recipe. Alternatively you can also use plain white (granulated) sugar.
- Keep the Dough Covered: Once you've kneaded the dough, keep it covered with clingwrap so the it doesn't dry out. Glutinous rice flour dries out very quickly! When you've finished shaping the balls, keep them covered as well.
- Keep You Hands Clean: It can be annoying, but keeping your hands free of dough debris will help make smooth balls. When you feel your hands dusting up from the flour dough drying in the air, wash your hands, then wipe them until they have completely dried before going back to your task.
How to Make Tang Yuan
This is an easy tang yuan recipe that takes a few shortcuts! Using warm water makes a soft dough quickly, and blending all the filling ingredients in a spice mill cuts some steps.
- Make a black sesame paste by grinding the dry filling ingredients together.
- Add the melted butter to make a paste, and solidify it in the fridge.
- Slice the hardened filling in pieces and shape them into balls.
- Make the dough by mixing warm water and glutinous rice flour.
- Shape a piece of dough and a piece of black sesame paste ball to make a filled ball.
- Cook the balls in boiling water. They will float when they are ready.
How to Make Ginger Tea
The (optional) sweet and spicy fresh ginger tea is a quick and easy recipe! You can cook and steep the ginger while you boil the glutinous rice balls on the same stove.
- Add the sliced ginger pieces, water, and sugar to a pot.
- Stir as it heats, and the hot water melts the sugar.
- Bring the tea to a very low simmer and let it simmer for about ten minutes.
- Turn off the heat and steep the ginger in the tea for another ten minutes.
- Strain the ginger slices from the tea.
How to Serve
Pour some ginger tea in a bowl and gently add the cooked tang yuan into the bowl. If you are the superstitious type, there is a number to avoid when it comes to eating these balls in a session. The number four denotes death because it's the same enunciation as the word "death" in Mandarin Chinese. So, if you're the superstitious type, add three or five balls in one bowl. John, the resident Chinese in the household, has instructed me tell you this!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can freeze tang yuan balls by placing them on a baking sheet in the freezer for about twenty minutes. Make sure the balls don't touch each other as they freeze. Once slightly frozen, you can place them in a freezer bag for later consumption.
Cook frozen tang yuan by boiling some water in a pot. Once the water is boiling, place the frozen balls in the pot, and gently stir them around to keep them from sticking to each other. They will eventually float to the top, which will tell you they are fully cooked.
Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls in Ginger Tea - Tang Yuan
The equipment and ingredients sections contain affiliate links to products I love to use as well as items that I personally believe make this recipe the best version of itself.
Black Sesame Filled Glutinous Rice Balls
- 40 grams roasted black sesame seeds
- 40 grams granulated white sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 40 grams unsalted butter melted
- 5 pieces pecans
- 180 grams glutinous rice flour
- 295 ml warm water
Tang Yuan Ginger Tea
- 8 slices of fresh ginger ~1 inch or 2.5 cm
- 100 grams brown sugar
- 4 cups water
Make the Black Sesame Filling
- In a spice grinder, add the black sesame seeds, sugar, nuts and pinch of salt. Pulse together until you get a fine powder that slightly sticks together.
- Transfer to a bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix everything together until you make a black sesame paste. Spread out and wrap in clingwrap then place in the fridge to solidify for about 20 minutes.
- Once solidified, remove from the fridge and slice into 15 equal-sized pieces. Make black sesame paste balls by rolling a piece between your palms and place it on a plate. Repeat for all other pieces.
- Cover the plate of black sesame balls with the same clingwrap again and place in the fridge to further solidify.
Make the Tang Yuan Dough
- In a large mixing bowl, add the dough and half a cup of the warm water. Mix with a spatula until the water disappears, then add another half cup of water. Repeat one more time. You should get a shaggy dough that just comes together.
- Squeeze the dough together with your hand and knead for about 5 minutes to soften the dough and catch flour from the sides of the bowl. It should have the consistency of a warm playdough. Split the dough into 15 equal pieces. Then cover the pieces to keep them from drying out.
Assemble The Tang Yuan Balls
- Take the black sesame balls from the fridge to work with them and the dough pieces. Take a piece of dough and flatten it, while keeping the center a little thicker than its edges. Place a piece of black sesame paste ball in the center and wrap the dough around it, pinching the edges closed.
- For extra security, roll the ball gently between your palms. Repeat the step for all of the balls, and then cover them so you can place the plate back in the fridge.
Make the Ginger Tea
- In a pot, add the ginger slices, brown sugar, and water (I only made half of the serving in the pictures). Heat the pot until it simmers and continue to simmer for about 10 mins. Mix as the sugar melts. Turn off the heat and let it steep for another 10 minutes, then strain with a mesh to remove the ginger pieces.
Cook the Tang Yuan
- Fill a pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Gently add the tang yuan balls and gently stir in the pot as they cook.
- The balls with rise in the boiling water and that's when you'll know they are thoroughly cooked.
- Add some ginger to a bowl, and place a few pieces of cooked tang yuan into the same bowl. Serve while warm.
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