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Dongzhi – Homemade Tang Yuan (unfilled)

Updated: Apr 13, 2020



It is literally translated as “the arrival of winter”, and is another important festival by Chinese as well as Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Koreans. Winter Solstice Festival usually occurs between December 21st and December 23rd (East Asia time). This year, Winter Solstice Festival will occur on December 21st. On this day, the Northern Hemisphere has the shortest day and the longest night, and after this day, the day will become longer. This festival is to celebrate the return of longer daylight hours.

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It marks the day of the beginning of winter. This day family get together to make and eat tang yuan or tangyuan. It is a symbolization of reunion. In the northern area of China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi, rather than tang yuan or tangyuan.



Tang Yuan or tangyuan is a glutinous rice flour dumpling in the shape of a ball, on occasion they are brightly coloured, sometimes they are unfilled, and sometimes they are filled with delicious fillings. Tang yuan or tangyuan is made of glutinous rice flour mixed with water to form a dough, then it is cooked and served in boiling water. These dumplings are traditionally eaten on any special occasion of a family reunion, it is the homophone for union.


Dongzhi - Homemade Tang Yuan (unfilled) Serves 6

Ingredients: 2 cups glutinous rice flour about 1 cup warm water food colouring (optional)


To make the glutinous rice ball dough:

  1. In a large bowl, add the glutinous flour with a little less than 1 cup of water (add 3/4 cup first) and mix with a spatula to form a dough. If the dough needs more water, add the rest or if it’s too wet, add a bit more glutinous rice flour.

  2. If needed, knead the dough. The dough is done when it doesn’t stick to your hands anymore.

  3. At this point, you can decide to make filled tang yuan or unfilled tang yuan.

To make the unfilled tang yuan:

  1. Divide the dough depending on the number of different colours you would like to make. I chose white, pink and yellow, so I divided my balls into 3 portions.

  2. Add a few drops of food colouring, to each portion and knead until the colour is well distributed with no more streaks and you reach the colour you would like. Make sure to wash your hands between each kneading as you do not want to mix the colours.

  3. Shape the dough into even-sized balls about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon per ball depending on your size preference.

To cook the tang yuan:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the balls.

  2. The balls should rise to the surface about 5 minutes into boiling, after it rises to the surface, boil for 2 minutes.

  3. Scoop out the dumplings with some of the water and serve with sugar or ginger syrup.


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