Today is Dongzhi day or Winter Solstice Festival , one of the important festival celebrated by the Chinese. It always falls on or around 22nd December each year, where sunshine is the weakest and daylight is the shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in.
When we were small, my sisters and I would help our mom to make Tang Yuen, a sweet dessert made from ground glutinous rice. In those days, my mom would soak the glutinous rice grains and we would bring the rice grains to a special shop to be grinded to a paste. The grinder is a big mortar made from marble. Nowadays, powdered glutinous rice can be easily obtained from any grocery shop.
The powdered glutinous rice is then mixed with water to a dough. A small amount of the dough, the size of a cherry tomato, is then rolled into a round. The dough can be divided and add some food colours before rolled them into rounds. Drop these rounds into hot boiling water and cook until they pops up, they will be cooked at this point. These are eaten with sweet soup. The sweet soup is prepared by boiling water, sugar, some crushed ginger and pandan (screwpine) leaves. Scoop some glutinous rice balls into a bowl, top with some sweet soup, and you will have a bowl of Tang Yuen. Tang Yuen can be cooked in a savoury soup, but it has always been the sweet version for my family.
Some superstitious and belief : by eating Tang Yuen, we will be one year older, instead of waiting for the Chinese New Year, where the starts of a new year in a Chinese Calendar. My mom and the elderly used to say that as soon as you one ate of these Tang Yuen, then you are a year older. My mom used to stick a pair of Tang Yuen, a white and a red at the top corners of the windows and doors, as it is believed to be a talisman to keep the evil spirits from harming the children. Tang Yuen is also served during the Chinese wedding ceremony to the couple so that they will have a sweet and loving life together. (Yes! I had this at my wedding!).
These Tang Yuan can be filled with sweet stuffings, like a mixture of finely chopped peanuts and sugar, or some local palm sugar. I chose to do mine plain, without any stuffing, as I like it better plain. Tang Yuan can be eaten either hot or cold. I prefer it hot.
This tradition is now passed down from one generation to the next. My kids are helping me now just as I have helped my mom. My kids certainly had a great fun making this Tang Yuan, with various colours and sizes! My sisters and I would always try not to drop one onto the floor when making them into rounds, but being kids, we are always not careful and there will at least be a few wasted! We would always laugh at each other when this happens. Now I see this being repeated in my own kids!
Have you eaten any Tang Yuen today? If you have, then you are a year older!