Winter Solstice Soup ( Tang Yuan )


Tang Yuan Soup, photo credit: dreamstime


Today is Chinese Winter Solstice Festival, also known as DongZhi in Chinese or fondly called as Tang Yuan Festival.

During the DongZhi Festival, which is usually celebrated on the 22nd December yearly, before Christmas Day, majority Chinese families would prepare a  big pot of glutinous rice balls boil with palm sugar and screwpine (pandan ) leaves. 


What is Tang Yuan?

This is a simple sweet dessert that brings a family together where everyone, young and old reunite together at the parent’s home to consume Tang Yuan and have a festive lunch or dinner in a grand scale.

Generally, Tang means “Soup” and Yuan means “Round”. The glutinous rice is shape into small marble balls and boiled in sweet water.

Consuming Tang Yuan means unity and harmony in a family. Chinese folks used to say that the glutinous rice balls are round in shape which symbolize “UNITY”. Whether it is true or not, I like the marble shape balls!

Each of the family members has to consume at least 3-5 rice balls to signify that the person is older and sensible. 



rolled up rice balls, big and small, photo credit: @peachpurple



Traditional Tang Yuan

Before I was married, my mom used to make Tang Yuan  every year. Her glutinous rice ball size are huge, not marble balls but tennis ball size! We had a hard time to chew off as they were sticky and goey.

Traditional glutinous rice balls are made from glutinous rice flour, mixed with sufficient plain water to form a damp dough, not sticky dough.

If the dough is sticky, you need to add a little flour to reduce the water. Otherwise, the rice balls will sticky together when you throw them into the boiling soup.



There are two types of sugar being used to boil the Tang Yuan:

# brown sugar

# white coarse sugar

White sugar will taste a little bland while brown sugar tasted sweeter because it is made from palm sugar ( Gula Melaka ). Amazing, isn’t it?

I prefer to use palm sugar, just half small bowl will do. The original recipe requires 1 full small bowl but I would rather reduce the sweetness in my Tang Yuan dessert soup.


This year, I made my own Tang Yuan and they turned out awesome!

Next year, I will be adding chopped coarse peanuts and sugar for more sweet tasting Tang Yuan.

Glutinous Rice Balls Soup Recipe  (Tang Yuan )
  1. # 1/2 pot of water
  2. # 220g of glutinous rice flour
  3. # 180ml water
  4. # 2pcs Pandan (screwpine) leaves, washed and tied into knots
  5. # 3-4 slices of ginger
  6. # 1/2 small bowl of brown sugar
  1. 1. Bring the pot of water to boil.
  2. 2. Add in the brown sugar and Pandan leaves.
  3. 3. Allow the water to boil and it started to bubble furiously.
  4. Let us start making the Tang Yuan
  5. 1. Pour in the water and glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl.
  6. 2. Mix it with a spoon until well combined.
  7. 3. It may be sticky, add in a little flour.
  8. 4. Knead with you hands until dough turned not so sticky.
  9. 5. Use a teaspoon to scoop up dough.
  10. 6. Roll the dough into marble ball in between two palms.
  11. 7. Drop in each marble ball size Tang Yuan into the soup.
  12. 8. When the balls are cooked, they will float onto the surface.
  13. Turn off heat.
  14. Serve hot.


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