The Lantern Festival(Yuanxiao jie) is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year in the lunar calendar marking the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. The Lantern Festival is usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune. People also eat yuanxiao or tang yuan(rice ball) in this day. It is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, peanut butter, or sesame paste. It is very delicious. People believe the round shape of the balls, and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan may bring the family happiness and good luck in the new year.
We can make tang yuan at home. Do you want to try?
What we need:
1 cup glutinous rice flour, plus more to dust
1/3 cup lukewarm water
Red bean paste
Food coloring (optional, it can make your tang yuan more beautiful)
1. In a large mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup of lukewarm water to the glutinous rice flour, gently stirring with a spoon as you slowly pour in the water.
2. Gently knead the dough with to form a ball. If a dough ball does not easily form, add a teaspoon of water at a time and continue to knead until a dough ball forms and is the consistency of soft putty.
3. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Pinch off a 1-inch round piece of dough and flatten into a disk with the palms of your hand and place the dough into the boiling water. Once the dough floats, remove it with a sieve.
4. Add the boiled dough to the rest of the dough, and knead until it becomes uniform in consistency. You can divide the dough and add a few drops of food coloring if you want colored glutinous rice balls.
5. Roll into a 1-inch thick log and break into equal pieces of the desired size.
6. Roll each piece of dough into a sphere with the palm of your hands. Press your thumb into the center of the dough to form a little nest. Place the red bean filling in the middle of the dough, gently draw the edges of the dough up around the ball, seal, and roll into a sphere. Place on a plate lightly dusted with glutinous rice flour, and cover with a clean kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out while you finish making the rest of the stuffed glutinous rice balls.
7. Place the rice balls in boiling water, gently stir, and wait for them to float to the surface. Lower the heat to a simmer and wait for the rice balls to slightly expand before gently scooping them out with a sieve and placing in the soup/liquid you will be serving them in. Feel free to add rock sugar, boiled red beans, ginger, or fermented sweet rice to the soup.