Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)

Traditionally, this dish is eaten to symbolise the reunion of the family. Typically taken on the 15th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Lantern festival (more commonly known as mooncake festival now because of the consumption of mooncakes during this period) as well as Winter Solstice).

It is easy to make, and some would like fillings in them. I prefer them small and plain, so to taste the sweet soup better.

My mom used to get the dough from the market, ready made, which made me wonder if it was difficult to make. But turns out, all it took was some water and glutinous rice flour.


Rice Balls:
210ml water
2 cups glutinous rice flour
red and/or green coloring

1 sweet potato
1/3 cup black/brown sugar (or more, to taste)
1 1/2 cups water

Optional for syrup:
1 piece ginger, peeled and slightly pounded with a cleaver (If you are not a fan of ginger, you may leave this out)
2-3 pandan leaves or screwpine leaves, tie into a knot (If it is not available in your Asian mart, you may leave this out)


The recipe is forgiving in terms of the flour to water ratio. Just make sure that the dough is not too wet or dry.

  1. Prepare your syrup first. You may add everything into the pot and set it to boil for about 10minutes.
  2. Add the water to the glutinous rice flour in small increments.
  3. Knead the dough until soft, smooth, easily kneadable yet not sticky to the fingers (too wet), nor crumbling (too dry). If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more flour.
  4. Divide the dough depending on the number of different colours you intend to make. Add food colouring, one drop at a time, to each portion and knead until the colour is well distributed. I have mine in two colors, red and white (need not add food coloring to get white)
  5. Roll the dough into evenly sized balls. I made mine into about 0.5-0.75inch in diameter. I like them small so the sweetness goes around most parts of the rice ball.
  6. Set a pot of water to boil. As I am rolling them into balls, I drop them into the pot of boiling water, careful not to overlap them. Once they are ready, they will float. I typically do this in batches.
  7. Remove the ones that float, they are cooked. Set them aside in a bowl of ice water (to achieve the chewy texture, or the QQ texture)
  8. Continue to cook them in the boiling water until all your rice balls are cooked.
  9. I like to marinate my rice balls in more brown sugar so that the sweetness permeates to the centre. I do it for about 3 hours or so before adding them to the sweet syrupy soup in step 1.
  10. You can serve this cold (as I like it), or warm.



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