Christmas is here, and for the Chinese a few days before Christmas Day, it’s Happy Solstice Day. During this time, many Chinese around the world would make rice balls, also known as tong yuen or tang yuan (in Chinese). You could say it’s like Thanksgiving for the Chinese people, an important tradition. The rice balls are made out of glutinous rice flour in the form of play dough, and they are made into many small round balls. Amongst the many small rice balls, a very few large ones are made where some of them have fillings in it such as crushed peanuts, black sesame and red beans. I’ve never been a fan of the ones with fillings. I’ve always preferred my rice balls plain and simple. Colourings are also added to make the rice balls look bright and colourful. Rice balls are always made with close friends and families together as it symbolizes the importance of closeness and bonding.
Some Chinese are very peculiar about the ’roundness’ of the rice balls. They believe that the more ‘perfectly’ round the rice balls are, the stronger the closeness and bonding there is. Just like with my mother, she would always inspect the ’roundness’ of my rice balls. And if any of the rice balls are not as round as it should be, she would sigh loudly and re-rolled them until they were perfect to her, even if it meant re-rolling every single (200 plus) rice balls.
Afterwards, the rice balls are boiled twice in boiling water. The first round is to give them a wash. And in the second and final round, rock sugars, ginger and pandan leaves (pandanus amaryllifolius) are added into the water to give it its final flavour. When it’s done, share and serve the rice balls in small bowls. Those are the ingredients I would add to the ‘soup’ base, but there are also other flavourings used such as brown sugar or rice wine.
I’ve written a couple of posts on Chinese rice balls which you can check out or even learn to make.
Happy Solstice Day!!!
Photo credits to Suzanne Yeang, Chloe Wong, Irene Soo, Lydiana ‘Wewe’ Siti and Phen.