Tong yuan, or glutinous rice dumplings, are commonly enjoyed for Lunar New Year, also known to some as Chinese New Year, and especially for the Lantern festival. These rice dumplings are soft and chewy and swimming in a light ginger syrup. As a kid, I loved them. My parents would only make them occasionally, and usually late in the evening. For that reason, they always felt like a special treat; we got to have dessert AND stay up late.
Video Tutorial for Tong Yuan
This sweet dumplings can be their traditional white color or coloured with vegetable or fruit pulps or extracts. Sometimes they are plain and sometimes they are stuffed with delicious fillings.
For this recipe, I used two different fillings: sweet red bean paste and broken up chunks of Chinese brown sugar bars. Get the recipe for sweet red bean paste here. The Chinese brown sugar bars are quite particular and well worth the special trip to the Asian grocery store to buy them. They have a soft lighter colored layer in the middle that’s a bit softer than the outer layers and a wonderful flavor of brown cane sugar.
The dough is made with glutinous rice flour also known as sweet rice. Despite the name, glutinous rice does not contain any gluten. It’s just sticky and can have a stretchy quality. This same rice flour is used to make the Japanese sweets known as mochi.
Once filled, they can be frozen for later or simply cooked in a simple syrup with ginger slices and sugar. I like it best with more of that Chinese brown sugar.
The red bean filled dumplings are healthier and quite tasty, but I like the sugar-filled dumplings the best.
I find the dumplings pretty filling so three is good enough for me. And I just like having things in threes.
I hope you give these a try. Enjoy!
Printable recipe for Chinese Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Ginger Syrup
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour (also known as sweet rice flour) [200g]
- 1/2 cup water [100ml]
- about 1/2 cup your choice of fillings such as Chines brown cane sugar chunks, red bean paste, crushed peanut paste, or black sesame paste [125cc]
- 2 cups water [200ml]
- few slices of ginger
- 1/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 bar Chinese brown cane sugar [60cc]
- Prepare the ginger syrup. Combine all the syrup ingredients in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
- Prepare your fillings. If using sweet bean, nut or sesame paste, form it into small balls, about a quarter to a half inch in diameter. Chill in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up. If using Chinese cane sugar, break the into small chunks.
- Prepare the dumpling dough. Combine the rice flour with water. Mix well, using hands to knead to form a smooth dough.
- Taking small pieces of dough form balls about 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter (2.5 - 4 cm). Set aside.
- Fill the dumplings. Press your thumb into the center of a dough ball to form a well. Place a piece of filling inside and pinch up the dough to enclose it. Roll it between your palms to smooth dumpling. Continue with the rest.
- When the dumplings are filled, set aside the ones you want to cook and eat right away apart from the ones you want to freeze for future use.
- To freeze, space out the dumplings on a baking sheet or freezer-safe dish. Place in the freezer for an hour or until the dumplings are solid. Then remove from the baking sheet or plate and store in a freezer bag with the air pressed out.
- To cook the dumplings, bring your ginger syrup back up to a boil. Lower the temperature so that it continues to boil but gently.
- Add the dumplings to the syrup, spacing them out so that they don't stick together. Do not crowd them.
- Cook for 5 minutes or until the dough becomes a bit translucent looking and they float to the top.
- If cooking from frozen, cook until the dumplings float.
- Serve immediately with a little bit of the ginger syrup.