Saturday, December 22, 2007

Celebrating the beginning of winter solstice

"Today's the Tang Yuan (汤圆) Day!"

When I was a child, it doesn't really matter what the occasion was except for the food content of the occasion. What's the fun in celebrating if there's no good food to accompany the occasion?

So the equivalent of my version of the Tang Yuan (汤圆) Day today is in fact Dong Zhi (冬至). To put it simply, it's very much similar to Thanksgiving. Dong Zhi literally means the arrival of the winter solstice. It's origin began as a festival for the farmers and their families to get-together to celebrate the year-end harvest.

Dong Zhi occurs 6 weeks before Chinese New Year and would normally fall between 21st - 23rd December.

During this festive occasion, Tang Yuan (汤圆) is cooked and eaten to symbolise family unity, harmony and prosperity. It is a sweet soup filled with glutinuous rice flour balls. "Yuan" translates to "round" and signifies "Yuan Man" (圆满) - "completeness". "Tang Yuan" also means "Tuan Yuan" (团圆) - "family reunion". For good luck, some families prefer to have some pink Tang Yuan to mix with the white ones.

In our case, I think it's more for colour coordination. :) Although there's a variety of Tang Yuans available in the supermarkets (with fillings such as peanut paste, black sesame paste, red bean paste, lotus paste et cetera - my favourite being the peanut and black sesame paste ones), my mother always insisted on making the original Tang Yuan without fillings.

Tang Yuan (汤圆)

glutinous rice powder
red food colouring powder
pandan leave
brown sugar

(1) Slowly mix water to the glutinous rice powder until it forms a dough which doesn't stick to your hand

(2) Divide the dough in half

(3) Sprinkle some red food colouring powder on one dough and work the dough well to have an even red colour on the entire dough

(4) Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling water, add the pandan leave and brown sugar

(5) Roll tiny balls from the dough and quickly add it into the pot of boiling water

(6) When the balls rise up to the surface of the boiling water, it is cooked and ready to be served

(+) Really simple to make

(=) Taste of tradition in every bite of the Tang Yuan! :)

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