Tong Yuan Dumplings in Osmanthus Sweet Soup 桂花酒釀湯圓
By Ellen L. Published: 2017-01-24
Chinese New Year 中國新年 is come again and the city is stirring itself once again to great activity and anticipation for this most important and festive of Chinese festivals. One thing I especially love about Chinese festivals is that they put into high gear the twin Chinese obsessions of eating and word play. So first (and most importantly for me) there are tons of yummilicious things to stuff yourself silly with during the New Year celebration. Secondly, not only are you're eating all this deliciousness you are also bringing yourself many good things by means of all this eating! And how is that? Well that's because all the Chinese New Year dishes have symbolic names that are lucky and auspicious.
So for our first Chinese New Year recipe, we present you with Tong Yuan Dumplings in Osmanthus Scented Sweet Fermented Rice Soup, 桂花酒釀湯圓, a traditional Chinese dessert soup of tiny chewy rice dumplings nestled cozily into a soup flavored with the unique sweetness of fermented rice and scented with the aroma of delicate osmanthus flower. The symbolic meaning here is the "roundness" or "圓" of the tong yuan 湯圓 which the Chinese interpret as the circle of family or life being complete and full.
The first special ingredient is Chinese fermented glutinous rice, also known as jiu niang 甜酒釀. Oh how I love this stuff! This is basically just glutinous rice fermented until it achieves a porridge like consistency and a clear sweet delicate taste with a very slight alcoholic content of about 1.5-2%. (Don't worry about the alcohol content, it dissipates in the cooking of the soup, leaving behind only flavor.) You can by it bottled at Chinese grocery stores but the best, of course, is homemade. It's real easy to make, I'm glad to report and we will post on how to make your own Chinese Fermented Rice 甜酒釀 very soon.
The other special ingredient is dried osmanthus flowers 桂花. These beloved tiny little pale yellow flowers come from a humble looking shrub and have been cultivated in China for thousands of years. I grew up with a osmanthus tree outside my bedroom window and it's my favorite flower scent of all. When dried and used in food it imparts it's delicate flower aroma into the scent and flavor of the food. You can find these at the wet markets, look for the spice vendors. You can also find bottled osmanthus sugar syrup 糖桂花 at the asian grocery store, which is just osmanthus flowers infused in a sugar and or honey syrup. That would work just fine for this soup as well.
You make the mini tong yuan with glutinous rice flour 糯米粉. Don't get the rice flour 米粉, it has to be glutinous rice flour 糯米粉 or it won't come out as chewy little balls of delight. Making these wee little tong yuans is pretty easy, just water, a dash of sugar and the flour and you're good to go. For rolling the balls of tong yuan you can get little helpers to help out, it's easy and fun to roll them.
See how lovely and voluptuous our baby tong yuan turned out to be? I love tong yuan in all sizes! Now that we've had our tiny tong yuan in this delicate, delectable Osmanthus Sweet Soup and also gobbled down our favorite normal size Black Sesame Tong Yuan, we're all set up for a complete fully rounded 圓 year of luck!
Psst...check back in soon as we've got more yummilicious Chinese New Year posts coming up soon!
Tong Yuan Dumplings in Osmanthus Sweet Soup Recipe 桂花酒釀湯圓
Prep time: Cook time:
1 cup glutinous rice flour 糯米粉, 150g160 ml warm water, 2/3 cup
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 cup Chinese fermented rice 甜酒釀
3 cups water
rock sugar 冰糖 to taste
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers 桂花*
In small bowl, mix the glutinous rice flour with sugar, then slowly add water until mixture forms into a dough and does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Pinch off dough and roll into 1/2" balls and set on a rice flour dusted plate. Boil 3 cups water in small pot and cook the tong yuan over medium low heat until tong yuan float to the surface. Scoop out and place into a bowl of cool water. Discard boiling water.
In a medium pot, heat fermented rice and a fresh 3 cups of water until boiling. Turn down heat to a simmer, scoop tong yuan from water and add in. Add rock sugar to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes, add in osmanthus flowers and stir in. Turn off heat and immediately pour beaten egg into pot in a thin stream, stirring continuously. Scoop into round bowls and serve hot.
*Tip: If using osmanthus sugar syrup, just omit the rock sugar and dried osmanthus flowers.
More Auspicious Chinese New Year Sweets at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Jau Gok Peanut Puff Dumpling 炸油角 / 炸角仔
Sesame Ball Jian Dui 煎堆
Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao 年糕
Tong Yuan Rice Dumpling 黑芝麻湯圓