Saturday, 13 March 2021


Tangyuan - Modern Healthy Chinese Sweet Rice Balls/汤圆 [tāng yuán]

Tang yuan served in warm water

Tang yuan served in sweet ginger soup

Made of nutritious brown rice flour, sesame and natural colouring from spinach and beetroot :-)



Version 1:

1. 1 cup glutinous rice flour

2. 1/4 cup brown rice flour

3. 1/2 cup and tsp cold water including liquid from coloring (105 ml)


Version 2 (even healthier):

1. 3/4 cup glutinous rice flour

2. 1/4 cup brown rice flour

3. 1/2 cup or 100ml cold water including liquid from coloring


1. 1 cup black sesame seeds (100g)

2. 8 TBS sugar (100g)

Natural colouring:

- 1 small beetroot for the red colour
- A handful of baby spinach leaves blended

Sweet ginger soup (甜姜汤):

- 1 litre water
- 1 inch ginger
- 4 TBS brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 Pandan leave (optional) – In Singapore, we add this to the ingredients for the fragrant of the Pandan leave in the soup, but since I can’t get it in Denmark, I just leave it out.



1. Roast the black sesame seeds on a pan under medium heat until fragrant and let it cool down.

2. Blend the black sesame seeds and sugar together. 

Tang Yuan:

1. In a mixing bowl, add glutinous rice flour and brown rice flour.

2. Add in cold water and knead into a dough.

3. Now you have to add more gluten into the dough by weighing 10 g of dough and roll it into a ball, then flatten it. Make another one.

4. In a pot of boiling water, add the two flat dough and boil until cooked. It will float.

5. Drain the cooked dough and add them into the raw dough, knead and combine well.

6. To make each tang yuan, weigh 10 g of dough and roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a round shape. 

7. Fill it with the filling, fold and wrap it up into a ball and set aside. Repeat step 7-8 until all the dough or filling is used up.

Sweet ginger soup:

1. In a pot of water, add ginger and Pandan leaves (optional) and bring to boil.

2. Add the brown or coconut sugar and simmer it under low heat (no. 3 on my stove).

Cooking the tang yuan:

1. Bring to rapid boil a separate pot of water and add the sweet balls into the pot.

2. Let it come to a second boil. The sweet balls are done once they float to the top.

3. Dish it out into a bowl and add the sweet ginger soup into it.

4. Serve immediately and enjoy :-)

Additional Information:

Our kids love tang yuan. Chinese new year is over a month ago and I am still making them! I just have to record down the recipe so that I don't forget and it will be handy for me during Chinese new year next year.

Tangyuan is eaten on the last day (or 15th day) of Chinese New Year (CNY) known as Yuanxiao. It is the first full moon after the start of the CNY. This day is commemorated with tangyuan symbolizing that the year would be sweet, round and complete, just like the full moon. Tangyuan is also eaten during the Lantern Festival.

However, traditionally-made tangyuan is not the healthiest choice as it is made up basically of white glutinous rice, lots of sugar and artificial colouring! Tangyuan can be made without the filling, just plain glutinous flour balls. I remembered that tanggyuan is not my favourite CNY food, as even as a young child, I found it a rather empty food, when my granny or my mum made it during the Lantern Festival.

Now as a mother, I face the dilemma of whether or not to pass down this tradition to our children. If I am to pass this tradition down, tangyuan has to be more nutritious and not just an empty calorie food. I have decided to make a modern more healthier and more nutritious version of tangyuan.

By adding two cooked dough pieces into the dough, it adds gluten into the dough and makes it a lot easier to work. The dough doesn't break easily. I learned this from a very sweet and kind Chinese lady.

Using 1 cup glutinous rice flour and 1/4 cup brown rice flour, we couldn't taste the brown rice flour at all and it tasted equally good. But we wanted to make it even healthier, and thus we use 3/4 cup of glutinous rice flour and 1/4 cup of brown rice flour. Anymore brown rice beyond this ration will make the dough heavy and not so tasty.

White glutinous rice flour

 Organic whole grain brown rice flour

3/4 cup white glutinous rice flour

1/4 brown rice flour

Add cooked dough into the raw dough

Mix well

Dough is done :-) Now it feels elastic and doesn't break easily.

Boil for 2 minutes or until they all float to the surface.

Now it's done :-) Scoop into a boil along with the water and enjoy :-)

To make green tang yuan, blend a handful of spinach with 1/2 cup of water

Sift to get the green liquid.

Add spinach liquid into the flour

Knead and mix well.

To make gluten for the dough, make 2 lumps of 10g each.

Flatten them.

Boil a pot of water and cook them.

They are done when the float to the surface.

Add it to the dough.

Knead and mix well.

Now it is done, you will notice that the dough is now much more elastic, just like wheat dough. The dough should not stick to your hand.

To make pink tang yuan, blend 4 pieces of beet root with 1/2 cup of water and add them to the flour.

To make gluten for the dough, make 2 lumps of 10g each.

Flatten them.

Boil them until they float to the surface.

Add them to the dough.

Mix well and now it's done. They are as elastic as any wheat dough.

Now to make tang yuan, take a lump of dough approx. 10 g and roll it into a ball.

Flatten it.

Add the filling.

Fold the dough around the filling into a ball.

Now the rice balls are done and ready to be cooked :-)

You can freeze the rice balls in the freezer for later use too.

When the water boils, add in the tang yuans

Scoop into serving boils along with some of the liquid

Leftover dough can be kept fresh in the fridge for 3 days.

If you wish to eat tang yuan in sweet soup, to make sweet ginger soup, add 2-3 slices of ginger and brown sugar in a pot.

Bring to boil until the brown sugar is dissolved.

Add the tang yuans and boil for 2 minutes until they float. Then turn off the fire.

Scoop into a serving bowl along with the soup. Enjoy :-)

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