Saturday, December 22, 2012

Recipe: Homemade Tong Yuen (Glutinous Rice Balls)

Dongzhi Festival, also known as the Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and East Asians. Traditionally, this is the time for the family to get together and make tong yuen or tangyuen (glutinous rice balls). For the Chinese, tong yuen symbolises reunion and togetherness.

For the past few years, we would buy ready-made tong yuen but I thought it would be fun to make our own this year since the kids are older and they love playing with PlayDoh. Baby C was very good at making the balls, and Baby D soon got a hang of it too.Albeit a little messy, we had loads of fun and it tasted extra sweet since we made it ourselves. Their grandparents complimented them on a great job done.

We decided to use natural food colouring, making them from plants such as pandan leaves (for green), bunga telang (for blue) and also a plant which we think is called 太阳红 which is red and believed to be good for lowering cholesterol. We also used blueberry jam (for purple) and cocoa powder (for brown).

Kids with their edible "PlayDoh"

Usually tong yuen is served with a sugar syrup, but we like to serve it with a gingery syrup, made of old ginger, gula melaka (palm sugar), and knotted pandan leaves. You can adjust the gula melaka and ginger according to your preference. Since our tong yuen is without any filling, we served some condiments on the side, freshly grated coconut and crushed salted peanuts. The tong yuen should have a slight chewy texture, I would recommend that you make them into mini balls (approx 3-4cm diameter).

Homemade tong yuen - so colorful

Coat in peanuts, delicious!

Homemade tong yuen or tang yuan (glutinous rice balls)
Recipe by Baby Sumo
Preparation time: 30-35 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 6-8

250g glutinous rice flour
200g - 250g water, approx.

8-10 pandan leaves, cut into small pieces and crushed (for green colouring)
2 handfuls red leaf plant or roselle, cut into small pieces (for red/pink colouring)
2 tbsp blueberry jam (for purple colouring)
8-10 bunga telang (blue pea flower) (for blue colouring)
2 tbsp cocoa powder (for brown colouring)

For the syrup
1l water
5 pandan leaves, knotted
1 inch gula melaka, approx. 50g (palm sugar or Malacca sugar)
2 inch ginger, sliced and crushed

To garnish
1 pandan leaf, cut into half and into 1 inch long and then knotted

100g crushed peanuts
1/4 grated coconut

1. Firstly, start by making the natural food colouring. For the bunga telang, pandan leaves and red plant/roselle, place 80g of water with each of the plant in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes to release colours.  (Note: For pandan leaves, if you want a darker green hue, you need to blend the leaves and allow the paste to sink and should be made a day in advance).

Natural blue food colouring

Natural red food colouring

Natural green food colouring

2. Sift the glutinous rice flour and divide into 5 portions. For each portion, start by adding the natural food colouring and gradually adding more water to form a stiff dough. You will need about 45-50ml of water to 50g of flour. Place dough on board and knead well for 3-4 minutes.

3. Roll each portion of dough into a long roll and bread into small even pieces. Roll each firmly into the size of a marble ball. Place rice balls onto a tray.

4. To make the syrup, bring water to boil and add pandan leaves, gula melaka and ginger. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes and remove from heat.

5. Bring half a saucepan of water to a boil. Put in white tong yuen first and cook until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into a bowl of cool water. Repeat with other colours. Drain the cooked rice balls and place in syrup. Place a mini knotted pandan leaf in each bowl as garnish. Serve with grated coconut and crushed peanuts.

Check out our 2020 version: Among Us Tang Yuan (link here).

If you enjoyed reading my posts, LIKE me on Facebook! You can also follow me on Instagram (@babysumo) for more photo updates or subscribe to our YouTube channel.Thanks :)


  1. Happy Winter Solstice Festival!!! even though it was yesterday! :P
    Love the difference colours! Never though of using blueberry jam as a colouring!!

    1. Haha we were looking for different natural colours and had blueberry voila!

    2. Hi Vien Lee, it is actually today (Dec 22)!

  2. This year we haven't had any tong yuen yet, thinking to make some on X'mas day, hehehehe.

    1. Hehe good luck! You guys will have fun making it :)

  3. Happy Winter Solstice! The homemade tong yuen with the natural food colouring is healthy despite some advance preparation, I should have thought about this!
    Your kids are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! We try to go natural whenever possible :)

  4. So precious to be able to see the kids and make tong yuen together with them. Good stuff!

  5. Love your natural colorings! And I also like mine with gingery syrup too.

    1. Thanks Mich. I have to prepare some pandan paste in advance next time so I can get a darker green hue :)

  6. Happy Dong Zhi!

    This is yet another fun and yummy activity with your kids. Good job!

  7. What a great idea getting the kids to make it too-I can see how skills in PLay Doh helps with these! I love the ginger syrup too :)

  8. These do look great, oh i cannot wait to get back into my own kitchen and start cooking again

  9. What a great idea, natural food coloring. The babies are so good in their fine motoric skills. Educational, creative and yummy!

  10. I love the natural food coloring idea & it's a wonderful experience making tong yuen with your children . Well, I've made some many years ago with my boys my boys but unfortunately they don't like tong yuen . But it's been ages since I had tong yuen , I've made some tong yuen with orange & purple sweet potatoes with gula melaka & coconut filling. My hubby & sons are still not keen ! So I had the whole pot just for myself! LOL

  11. I never heard about tang yuen before, but I think it looks similar to wedang ronde in Indonesia... love the natural food colouring idea :)


Please drop any comments or questions you may have here. Thank you so much for reading!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...