February 13, 2014

Black Sesame Tang Yuan 黑芝麻湯圓

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By Published: 2014-02-13
Tong Yuans are sexy.  If you've ever had a Tong Yuan you'll have to agree with me.  These Chinese sweet rice dumplings are smooth lusciously unctuous round balls of delightfully ricey gooeyness hiding a center of sublime sweetly fragrant filling just waiting to ooze out into your waiting mouth.  Now that I've totally grossed you out (and captured your attention!)  let me state that I stand by all that I have just written.  For it is all true, Tong Yuans, or 湯圓, are one of very few truly sexy chinese foods.  The excitement of the mysterious center filling, the senses awakened by the richness of the filling contrasting the simplicity of the rice dough, the delightfully perfect round fullness,  the absolute pleasure of the act of eating a tender, tasty, sexy Tong Yuan...

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But enough about sexiness.  Let's get back to the Chinese New Year at hand.  We are fast approaching the end of this year's festivities and the day of the Lantern Festival, or the 15th day of the Chinese New Year is when all families get together to eat Tong Yuan.  Tong Yuan Rice Dumplings, with it's perfectly round shapes in the perfectly round bowls, traditionally symbolizes family togetherness (as opposed to my twisted modern interpretation!)  So regardless of interpretation, we have made some homemade Black Sesame Tong Yuan, or 黑芝麻湯圓,  in readiness for the celebration of the last day of the Chinese New Year and to share with you, dear readers, of course.

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We decided on black sesame filling for our Tong Yuan, though there are many other traditional fillings that are super yummy as well such as red bean, peanut, osmanthus, sugar, etc.  For black sesame filling you must roast and grind your own black sesame.  No if ands or buts!  You must!  It is so good this way it must be a food sin or something to not do it this way.  Anyhow it's easy to do.  We whipped out our trusty (naturally non stick!) cast iron pan and toasted the sesame seeds until the whole house was fragrant.  And then ground them in our coffee grinder.

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The black sesame paste ended up looking like this.  It was so tasty and smelled so good that my little girl and her daddy sneaked a whole big bunch into their mouths when I wasn't looking!  Okay, okay, I snuck quite a bit too!  Yum, yum!

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The glutinous rice flour dough is easy to make but finicky to work with in that it can get dry really fast.  So get yourself a nice towel and cover the dough at all times.  And when you roll the dough into the final little round shapes be gentle, gentle, gentle...  Otherwise you'll get an exploded Tong Yuan.  (Guess how I know that!)

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Sliced Ginger

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Chinese Slab Sugar

You can boil your homemade tong yuan in water and then scoop them out on to pretty bowls and eat it just like that.  But if you want it the traditional chinese (and seriously super yummy) way then you must take the extra (and easy) step of making a simple sweet soup to nestle your tong yuan in.  Sweet Ginger Soup, or 薑糖水, will make a spicy sweet wonderful contrast and complement to your luscious velvety tong yuan.

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Sweet Ginger Soup 薑糖水 boiling in pot

Black Sesame Tong Yuan Rice Dumpling Recipe 黑芝麻湯圓
(Makes approx 28 tong yuans)  (Prep time: 45 mins  Cook time: 2 mins)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup black sesame
1/2 cup brown sugar or 1 slab of chinese slab sugar
4 tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (150g)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup room temp water

Directions:

Roast black sesame seeds in a non stick pan over low heat, stirring constantly until very fragrant but not burned.  Remove and let cool.  Grind in coffee grinder until fine.  If using slab sugar, break up slab to small pieces with fingers, then pulse with food processor (I just used my coffee grinder here) until powdered.  Mix black sesame, sugar and peanut oil until it forms a paste.  Add more oil if necessary.  Freeze for 10 mins or until the mixture firms up enough to easily form balls and hold its shape.  Scoop out 1/2 tsp of filling and roll into balls and return to freezer.

Add boiling water into the glutinous rice flour, stir to mix.  Add room temp water, one tbsp at a time, stirring and then kneading, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl and is soft and very slightly sticky.  Separate the dough in two and roll each half into a log.  Slice each log into 14 equal pieces then cover dough with a towel to keep from drying out.   

Taking a piece of dough, roll to a ball then flatten to approx 2" circle.   Add one frozen filling ball onto the dough.  Carefully gather the dough around the filling, close by pinching, then gently roll the wrapped tong yuan into a ball.  (See our Making of a Tong Yuan post for more details and photos! )

Boil 3" of water in pot.  When water is boiled add tong yuan (don't overcrowd) and stir immediately to prevent sticking to the pot bottom.  (Cook only as many as you will eat right away.)  Cook at a simmer until the tong yuan all float to the water's surface, then use a sieve to carefully scoop the tong yuan into a round bowl.  If your tong yuan need to wait for the Sweet Ginger Soup (see recipe below) to be made add some of the tong yuan cooking water to dumpling to keep them moist.  When ready to add the Sweet Ginger Soup pour out the water and add the sweet soup.  Yum, yum, yum!

Freeze all tong yuan that you are not eating immediately.  They will keep for a long time in freezer.  To cook frozen tong yuan, boil water then add tong yuan.  Stir immediately to prevent sticking to pot.  Cook over a low heat until tong yuan float to surface.  Remove from water with a sieve and serve hot with Sweet Ginger Soup.

Sweet Ginger Soup Recipe 薑糖水
(makes enough for around 6 servings)  Prep time: 1 min  Cook time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

10-15 slices ginger (the more the spicier)
6 tbsp brown sugar or 3/4 slab of chinese slab sugar
3 cups water

Directions:

Boil water in small pot.  Add ginger and sugar and cook at a simmer for 5 minutes.  Soup should taste spicy and sweet.  Adjust by adding ginger or sugar to taste.

Pour enough into bowls to just cover tong yuan and serve hot.  Enjoy!

More Chinese New Year treats at The Hong Kong Cookery:

Balls, chinese, cookie, Laughing, laughing cookie, recipe, sesame, Smiling, smiling cookie, 笑口棗Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls 笑口棗

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12 comments:

  1. I made the tong yuen according to your instructions and they turned out very well (even though I accidentally added one slab extra of sugar into the sesame mixture. A bit more sweet but still good. My first time making it, so I was unsure about proportion of dough to sesame paste when forming them. Now I know. If I could post a picture for you to see, I would. They were so cute and plump..

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  2. Glad that they turned out well! Aren't Tong Yuan just the yummiest?! ~ellen

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  3. They are delish. My mother made some for my husband and me on our wedding day. She made us eat one each to start us on our new life together. We stood in her kitchen in our wedding garb, staring at each other with our mouths full, chewing and chewing away on the plump, gelatinous, juicy tong yuen. Its a memory embedded in my brain forever.

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    1. You made us laugh! What a funny (and sexy!) memory to have from your wedding day! ~ellen

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  4. I have never eaten sweet tong yuan before. I usually cook them in a savory type broth flavored with dried shrimp, Chinese cabbage, dried mushrooms and bar-be-que pork. This time I will try your sweetened tong yuan recipe.

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    1. Wow, that sounds delicious! I've never eaten savory tong yuan before. We definitely must try it! ~ellen

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  5. Hi Ellen. I made your sweet sesame tong yuan as well as the savory tong yuan your other reader posted. They were both equally good but I don't have much of a sweet tooth and prefer savory/salty type foods.
    In making the tong yuan, is there a way to make them less sticky? After a while they just all seem to clump together- just one big massive dumpling in the pot.

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    1. Remove tong yuan from the pot as soon as cooked into a bowl of cool water. (Your cooking water will be quite starchy so don't keep it there!) Once tong yuan is cooled a bit, scoop out to serving bowl and immediately add your sweet or savory soup. Hope that helps! ~ellen

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  6. Dear Ellen, oh I am so glad to find your page. We spent 7 wonderful years in HK and I miss the food. The first time I at tong yuan in a dessert place on kowloon side I was just mesmerised. I have ordered them whenever I saw them since and I still love them but the surprise of the beautiful tong yuan in a sweet spicy warm ginger soup, with that yummy earthy center of the black sesame and the crunch of the sugar in the filling.... oh wow. Thank you for posting this recipe. I have bought some frozen ones since but never tried to make them myself. I wonder if I froze the filling balls first, would they be easier to handle when putting the dough around it? Again thank you and I will be using your page as my HK fix!! ❤️🙏🏻

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  7. Dear Linda - so glad that we can help you get your HK fix! There is something addictive about this crazy city isn't there, esp. the food! As for the filling, yes, freezing the filling rounds before wrapping would make it easier. Good luck with the dumplings!😊ellen

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    1. Thank you Ellen! You are a sweetheart! I am grateful for your recipes!

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  8. Hey lls - Your most welcome!! 😜ellen

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