I can’t remember if I said but we were actually away last week. We were in Western Canada and it was thoroughly beautiful – I had been to the area before but not in winter. My son and I were tagging on to my husband’s conference which I have done before a couple times pre-kids. Then, it was generally a pretty perfect arrangement. I would get to explore and do a bit more tourist-type stuff or hiking (my husband likes some but not as much as me), then we would see each other for dinner and do a few things together when he had gaps. Tagging onto another conference, and particularly being Chinese New Year while we were away, reminded me of one of my first tag-alongs in Taiwan and inspired me to make these Chinese sweet dumplings (tangyuan or tang yuan).
Making the most of bad weather
We managed to hit a late-season typhoon in Taiwan so unfortunately I didn’t get to do a lot of the hiking on the coast and other things I had planned. But, it did have a plus side as instead one day I took a cooking lesson at Jodie’s Kitchen. It was a lovely few hours learning about some of the simple sauces and core ingredients of Chinese/Taiwanese cooking and Jodie made a great host. It was so nice to try a number of flavors and I have made a couple things I learned a few times since. However I also got all enthusiastic on returning and had plans to make some of the dumpling recipes on Jodie’s site but only ever managed one, until now.
I finally made these Chinese sweet dumplings and, while they weren’t perfect-looking as I haven’t quite got the dumpling-knack down, they tasted great. I adapted the filling slightly from the core sweet sesame filling to include crystalized ginger which worked really well. This was in part as I saw many other recipes serve these dumplings in a ginger syrup so it was clearly a good fit of flavor. I skipped the syrup but instead had them with some papaya which, while it might not be as traditional, was a nice contrasting freshness and texture. These dumplings are traditionally eaten during the lantern festival that marks the end of the New Year celebrations in early March, but as Jodie says they really are good enough to eat more often.
Tips for making Chinese sweet dumplings
I found them a little fiddly to roll and form, but hopefully these points I learned will help –
- rolling the dough on a piece of parchment/greaseproof paper meant you could turn it easily and manipulate it a bit easier.
- don’t roll out the pieces too thinly as they will just burst when you start to roll it – it’s easier to have to pull the side pieces together more to get them to come together than deal with a bursting bottom part.
- the dough in the original proportions can be a little moist so it can help to add a little more flour. Only a tiny bit, though, so do this with caution. It might just be easier to keep a little flour to one side and keep your hands floured.
- when you put the filling in, press the filling together so it is as tight as possible before you start folding in the sides, this will help them hold together better.
- make sure you don’t have air inside as you fold the sides together, it will just burst as you roll then and the air escapes.
I ended up getting a little of the filling in the outer dough on some of them but in all honesty, while it might not look quite as good, they still taste great. These cook really quickly, a bit like gnocchi. Also similarly, they don’t really keep so you’ll need to gobble them down soon after making them. Believe me, that’s not a problem. The outer dough is made with glutinous rice flour – the rice used to make sticky rice. Despite the name, it doesn’t contain gluten at all. The name is just due to the stickiness. It is a little different from regular rice flour so do hunt it down. I used ready-crushed sesame for the filling, though I did crush them a little more. You can also use regular sesame seeds or black sesame and crush/blend them yourself.
I hope you’ll give these Chinese sweet dumplings a go as they are really tasty and worth trying. They make a nice dessert or snack. The sesame and ginger are a lovely bold and tasty contrast to the mild, slightly gooey outer shell. I know I will be making them a lot quicker again.
A smooth, slightly sticky outside around a sweet nutty filling - a tasty traditional treat.
- 3/4 cup glutinous rice flour you may need a specialist store to find this
- 6 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp crushed sesame seeds
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp crystalized ginger candied ginger
- 2 tsp water
- optional - crushed peanuts or ground almonds for dusting
Mix the flour and water for the dough to make a smooth dough.
Chop the ginger as small as possible and mix with the sesame, sugar and water for filling to form a paste.
Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and flatten each one out into a circle around 2in/5cm across.
Put a rounded teaspoon of the sesame paste in the middle of each piece of dough and press the paste together to hold tight.
Carefully bring up the sides of the dough to join together round the filling. Once all joined, gently roll in floured hands to form a ball. Do this with all of the pieces of dough before cooking any.
When ready to cook, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the balls of dough. Cook for a couple of minutes until they rise to the top then remove. Serve dusted with ground peanuts/almonds if you prefer.
Try these other ideas for Chinese New Year:
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