If You Are a Food, What Food Would You Be?
I’m a Tang Yuan. My Grandma Said So.
Phone Conversation with My Grandma:
Me: …and then the bitch said….to me! I don’t know what’s her problem!
G: (In her wise serious voice) This person is absolutely useless. If she can’t even get along with my Madeline, then she can count on getting along with no one.
Me: Really? Am I that awesome?
G: Everybody gets along with my Madeline. My grandbaby is the most considerate…like a “tang yuan: mall de yuan, gum de bian” can be rolled into a ball or pressed flat.
Me: What?!!?! But I don’t want to be a push over for other people to roll me or squash me!
G: *Sigh* Aiya! Why is my grandchild such a dummy! The meaning is that you are flexible and good with people. It’s a good thing!
So I am a tang yuan and what a great food to be! Tang yuan represent wholeness and unity. It is eaten on holidays with the whole family, as well as special occasions- like weddings. Chinese like 意頭 (yi4 tou2) and tang yuan has great意頭 (roughly translate to auspicious meaning).
Tang yuan is flexible. It can be plain or stuffed with filling (red bean, black sesame, peanut & coconut). Tang yuan is basically a rice cake (or more so a ball). It can be throw into any soup – sweet or savory. If you have extra dough, it can even be squash and pan-fried. I’m a tang yuan, well-rounded and adept to many situations. What are you?
Recipe 1: Tang Yuan (Rice Ball)
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour
- ½ cup hot water
Make a well on the bottom of the mixing bowl with glutinous rice flour. Slowly add a little hot water in the middle of the well. Using a wooden spoon or spatula slowly incorporate the flour around the well into the mush, until it looks crumbly and dry. Add a little more water and repeat.
Using the spoon picking up the flour to lump into one dough ball. The dough will still seem crumbly and dry. Start using your hands to pick up the pieces and knead it together into dough. Add a little more water if needed (1/2 to 1 tbsp) at a time.
When the dough is formed, make into a cylinder shape. Pinch of the end and roll the pinch piece into a small ball. When the water in the sauce pan is at a rolling boil – dump in the tang yuan. Make sure you stir at the bottom once or twice so it doesn’t stick. The tang yuan will float when done. Serve in soup. Soup options
Yield 15 -20 balls
Note: You don’t really need to measure out the water – I normally just add water until it’s about the right consistency. The consistency will feel a little dry and crumbly –you want just enough to form dough.
Recipe 2: Sweet Potato Ginger Dessert Soup
- 4 cups of water
- 1 slabs of Chinese brown sugar
- 2 small sweet potatoes
- ginger (size of the palm of a hand)
- citrus peel dried (optional)
Roughly slice ginger and smash each slice with the back of the knife (to open up the flavor). Place in pot with water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add chopped sweet potato, cook until the sweet potatoes are soft. Place tang yuan in bowl and serve with soup.
Yields: 6 servings
Note: This simple syrup may be the inspiration for my Grandma’s Chinese oatmeal – made with oats, ginger, Chinese brown sugar, milk, and eggs.
Recipe 3: Savory Soup Option
Make a broth with a hand full of dried shrimp and 3 pieces of dried scallops, 3-5 shitake mushroom, onion, 1-2 pieces of pork chop or chicken. Add a dash of chicken bouillon. Simmer. In the last 10 minutes add leafy veggies (ie. nappa cabbage or bok choy). Season with salt, pepper, a bit of soy sauce and dash of rice wine. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro at the end. Serve soup with tang yuan.