Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Glutinous Rice Balls

What is a glutinous rice ball? It's a chewy ball of dough that's filled with sweet sweet awesomeness. In Chinese they're called Tong Yuen (Cantonese) or I guess Tang Yuan (Mandarin). "Tong" means soup and "yuen" means round. You can read about them in this Wikipedia page.

I came across this post on Serious Eats earlier this year, and I have wanted some since then. My mom used to make these from time to time when I was younger, but she hasn't made them in 15 years, and I've totally forgotten about them until now! The version I'm going to make is going to be my mom's version instead of the Serious Eats one, which is more "traditional" (I think). I'm not sure since I've only ever eaten my mom's tongyuen (and I guess mine too).

(this makes enough for three people)
1 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour
2 tablespoons regular rice flour or tapioca starch
1 cup warm water
Chopped up brown sugar slabs

I walked four miles to Chinatown to get this stuff! It's exactly the same packaging as I remembered when I was little. The flour was $0.75 each and the sugar was $0.99 (no tax in Chinatown, yay). I remember when they used to be like 55 cents! :O Sorry, this is totally a nostalgic post.

1. First thing you want to do is to chop up your sugar slab into small little cubes. You're going to use these as the filling.

2. Now mix the dry ingredients together. Add half cup of water and mix. Now carefully add a little bit more water. You want to get it so the dough sticks together but is dry and easy to work with. If you use the whole cup of water, your dough will be too wet.

It should be something like this consistency.

3. Traditionally, you'd roll out the dough into a long 1" diameter rope and then chop off 1" pieces, but I'm lazy and I just pulled off pieces of dough from my bowl. I rolled them into balls and then pushed my brown sugar into them and then rolled them into balls again. You want to dust your working surface with rice flour so it doesn't stick. I like to pack my little balls with as much brown sugar as it can hold. :) You can make them as big or as small as you want, so don't worry too much about size. I actually like them smaller.

4. While you're making your little balls of dough, bring some water to a boil. Once the water's boiling, turn it down to medium heat. When you're done with the filling, dump the balls into the hot water. You want to stir it around immediately so it won't stick to the bottom of your pot (or together). You want to boil them until they float to the top.

5. According to Serious Eats, you just eat it with the soup it was boiled with, but there are many variations. I think a popular one is a ginger syrup, but in my version, we're going to just add salt to the "soup" or you can make more hot water. What? My tongyuen is already sweet, the salty soup makes for a nice contrast. ... and it's how my mom makes it.

I tried filling some of these with a coarsely chopped peanut, sugar, and coconut flake filling, and bleh. It was awful. The peanuts tasted like boiled peanuts, which I guess is what it is.

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