Glutinous Rice Balls (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)
with Black Sesame

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Glutinous rice balls (汤圆 or tāngyuán) with black sesame hold a special place in my heart, and it's hard to describe just how much I adore these little dumplings.

Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)

Traditionally eaten during the Lantern Festival (元宵节 or yuánxiāo jié), which marks the end of the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year celebrations, and the first full moon of the new year, these little bundles of sweetness are also commonly eaten at New Year and nowadays enjoyed throughout the year. The round shape of the glutinous rice balls symbolises family togetherness, and eating them is said to bring about family harmony, happiness and luck in the new year.

Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)

If you're unfamiliar with glutinous rice (糯米 or nuòmǐ), you might find its sticky and chewy texture slightly unusual, but that is precisely why I love them! Coupled with the sweet toasted black sesame paste filling, these little sticky rice sesame parcels are irresistible.

The texture of the rice balls comes from using glutinous rice flour (糯米粉 or nuòmǐ fěn), which is simply glutinous rice that has been milled into a very fine powder. When mixed with water, it becomes very sticky like glue. You can find it at most Chinese or specialist grocers selling Asian groceries.

Sweet glutinous rice balls are popularly served in a sweet ginger soup. As the sesame paste filling is already quite sweet, however, I tend to serve mine simply, with just a little of the cooking water. But for special occasions, the sweet soup adds nice touch, and you could always skip the ginger if you don't have any.

Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)

You can find glutinous rice balls with other sweet fillings, such as red bean paste or peanut butter paste, or even savoury glutinous rice balls, but my preference is firmly for the sweet ones with black sesame. Have a go, and you may surprise yourself by falling in love with these.

Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)

Glutinous rice balls will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about 1-2 days before the dough starts to dry and cracks form. If you're not planning to cook them in the next day or two, you can freeze them in an airtight container - they should keep for a few weeks. In both instances, try to keep the glutinous rice balls from touching each other and sticking - I find mini paper petit four or cupcake cases really useful for this!

For more recipes with black sesame, take a look at these black sesame cookies.


Here's what you'll need to make these glutinous rice balls:
(Click here to jump straight to the recipe)

For the filling
80g black sesame seeds, toasted
40g flavourless coconut oil
35g light muscovado (brown) sugar

For the wrappers
225g glutinous rice flour
95ml freshly boiled water
90ml cold water

For the sweet soup (optional)
20g root ginger, skin removed and smashed
2-3tsp light muscovado sugar, to taste

And here's what you'll need to do:

  • Put the sesame seeds into a large frying pan, without any oil, and toast them gently over medium heat. Spread the seeds flat, and toss frequently to make sure they don't burn. If you are using toasted sesame seeds, then you may not need to toast them for as long in the frying pan.
  • When the sesame seeds start smoking and popping and produce a toasted aroma (my boys say it smells like popcorn!), they are done. Set aside to cool completely.
  • When the sesame seeds have cooled, put them in a spice grinder or blender, and grind finely until they are smooth and uniform.
  • Warm the coconut oil in a mixing bowl, and add the sugar. Mix together until uniform and well combined. If your sugar is very clumpy, warm the mixture in the microwave in small increments until the sugar loosens enough to break apart and mix with the oil.
  • Add the ground sesame seeds to the sugar and oil mixture, and stir well to thoroughly combine into a thick paste. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.
  • Scoop heaped teaspoons (approximately 6-7g) of the sesame paste, and form into 20 - 24 small balls, using your fingers. Place them in a tightly sealing container, and pop them in the freezer until ready to use.
  • Tip: If your paste is a bit thin and not coming together, put the bowl into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Stir through before using.
  • Put the glutinous rice flour into a mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over, mixing with a wooden spoon to combine. Then add the cold water, mixing again to combine. Knead it for a minute or so with your fingers.
  • If you find the dough too dry, add a bit more cold water, a few drops at a time. Keep kneading until the dough comes together and becomes smoother to the touch. Be careful not to add too much water, or the dough will be very sticky and extremely difficult to work with!
  • Break off small bits of dough -- or roll the dough into a rope shape and cut off small pieces (approximately 16-18g) -- and roll them into small balls, as many as the number of sesame fillings you made.
  • When you're ready to assemble the glutinous rice balls, remove the sesame fillings from the freezer.
  • Using your fingers, flatten each dough ball into roughly 8cm circles to form the wrappers.
  • Drop one sesame filling ball into the centre of each wrapper, and stretch the dough across to enclose the filling completely. Roll between your palms until the dough is smooth. Repeat until all the wrappers have been filled.
  • To eat the glutinous rice balls straight away (because, why not?), bring 500ml of water to a boil in a small saucepan. If you're making the sweet soup, smash the ginger pieces with the flat of a large chef's knife, add them and the sugar to the water, bring it back to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Taste test to check if more sugar is needed.
  • Gently lower about 6-10 glutinous rice balls into the boiling liquid. When it boils again, reduce heat to a gentle boil, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. When the rice balls float to the surface, they are done.
  • Portion into bowls (about 3-5 per person) and serve.
Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)
Rice and Noodle Recipes: Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)

Glutinous Rice Balls (Tang Yuan | 汤圆)
with Black Sesame

By

Glutinous Rice Balls (汤圆)

These delicious black sesame filled glutinous rice balls are perfect for celebrations, breakfast, snack, pudding - you name it!

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Yield: 20 - 24 rice balls
Course: Dessert, Pudding, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Tags: Chinese New Year, Sweet Dumpling

Ingredients

For the filling
80g black sesame seeds, toasted
40g flavourless coconut oil
35g light muscovado (brown) sugar

For the wrappers
225g glutinous rice flour
95ml freshly boiled water
90ml cold water

For the sweet soup (optional)
20g root ginger, skin removed and smashed
2-3tsp light muscovado sugar, to taste

Method

  1. Put the sesame seeds into a large frying pan, without any oil, and toast them gently over medium heat. Spread the seeds flat, and toss frequently to make sure they don't burn. If you are using toasted sesame seeds, then you may not need to toast them for as long in the frying pan.
  2. When the sesame seeds start smoking and popping and produce a toasted aroma (my boys say it smells like popcorn!), they are done. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. When the sesame seeds have cooled, put them in a spice grinder or blender, and grind finely until they are smooth and uniform.
  4. Warm the coconut oil in a mixing bowl, and add the sugar. Mix together until uniform and well combined. If your sugar is very clumpy, warm the mixture in the microwave in small increments until the sugar loosens enough to break apart and mix with the oil.
  5. Add the ground sesame seeds to the sugar and oil mixture, and stir well to thoroughly combine into a thick paste. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.
  6. Scoop heaped teaspoons (approximately 6-7g) of the sesame paste, and form into 20 - 24 small balls, using your fingers. Place them in a tightly sealing container, and pop them in the freezer until ready to use.
  7. Tip: If your paste is a bit thin and not coming together, put the bowl into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Stir through before using.
  8. Put the glutinous rice flour into a mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over, mixing with a wooden spoon to combine. Then add the cold water, mixing again to combine. Knead it for a minute or so with your fingers.
  9. If you find the dough too dry, add a bit more cold water, a few drops at a time. Keep kneading until the dough comes together and becomes smoother to the touch. Be careful not to add too much water, or the dough will be very sticky and extremely difficult to work with!
  10. Break off small bits of dough -- or roll the dough into a rope shape and cut off small pieces (approximately 16-18g) -- and roll them into small balls, as many as the number of sesame fillings you made.
  11. When you're ready to assemble the glutinous rice balls, remove the sesame fillings from the freezer.
  12. Using your fingers, flatten each dough ball into roughly 8cm circles to form the wrappers.
  13. Drop one sesame filling ball into the centre of each wrapper, and stretch the dough across to enclose the filling completely. Roll between your palms until the dough is smooth. Repeat until all the wrappers have been filled.
  14. To eat the glutinous rice balls straight away (because, why not?), bring 500ml of water to a boil in a small saucepan. If you're making the sweet soup, smash the ginger pieces with the flat of a large chef's knife, add them and the sugar to the water, bring it back to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Taste test to check if more sugar is needed.
  15. Gently lower about 6-10 glutinous rice balls into the boiling liquid. When it boils again, reduce heat to a gentle boil, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. When the rice balls float to the surface, they are done.
  16. Portion into bowls (about 3-5 per person) and serve.

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