Recipe: Sweet Sticky Rice Balls in Soup (Yin-Yang Tong Yuan)

Recipe: Sweet Sticky Rice Balls in Soup (Yin-Yang Tong Yuan)

Danielle Chang
Feb 5, 2016
(Image credit: Christina Holmes)

Tong yuan, sweet stuffed rice balls, is a popular dish during holidays such as the Lantern Festival, when round, moon-shaped foods are eaten for auspiciousness, and at weddings and other celebrations. After all, yuanis a homophone for the Chinese word for "reunion," symbolizing harmony and togetherness. When offered as a last course, these rice balls are frequently served in a sweet, clear soup.

(Image credit: Christina Holmes)

Traditional Chinese tong yuan are typically filled with ground black sesame, but at a recent LUCKYRICE wedding banquet at Shun Lee Palace in Manhattan, chef Susur Lee experimented with adding chocolate ganache to the balls instead, for yin and yang. This East-meets-West pairing is inspired by those delicious dumplings.

Sweet Sticky Rice Balls in Soup (Yin-Yang Tong Yuan)

Serves 4 to 6

6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups sweet glutinous rice flour

1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup rock sugar

Put the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it is almost at a boil, and then pour it over the chocolate chips. Whisk together until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Set aside for a few minutes to cool and firm up.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sesame seeds to a paste; you should have about 2 tablespoons. Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Mix in the granulated sugar and ground sesame seeds until they are well-combined. Cover and chill in the freezer while you make the dough.

For the dough, mix the two rice flours together in a bowl. Add 1 cup of water and knead for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is no longer sticky. Divide the ball of dough in half. On a flour-dusted surface, divide each piece in half and shape it into a cylinder about 2 inches thick. Cut the dough into 1-inch-wide segments.

To form the rice balls, take a segment of dough and press it with your thumb to create an indentation. Place a marble-sized piece of the sesame stuffing in the hollow, and close the dough around it with your fingers. Roll the dough to create a round ball, and set it aside on a flour-dusted surface. Repeat until you have used half of the dough. Follow the same procedure with the chocolate mixture for the second half of the dough.

When you are ready to cook the rice balls, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a gentle boil (a furious boil will break open the rice balls). Immerse the rice balls in the water, and cook until they expand slightly and are almost translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the rice balls from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Meanwhile, bring 6 cups of water to a gentle boil in a medium pot. Add the rock sugar and cook over medium heat until the liquid starts to simmer. You want to serve this dish hot, so hold the liquid at a simmer until the rice balls are ready to serve.

To serve, add rice balls (2 chocolate and 2 sesame, or more if desired) to each bowl, and fill with the sweet soup.

Recipe Notes

  • Uncooked rice balls can be covered with plastic wrap and frozen for up to a month or refrigerated for up to a week for a later use.

Reprinted with permission from Lucky Rice by Danielle Chang, copyright (c) 2016. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

(Image credit: Christina Holmes)

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