Winter Dough Balls: A Chinese Thing

Today is officially the first full day of Winter. In Chinese culture, this is a day that is celebrated by eating glutinous rice ball soup, called “tong yuen.” I have consumed many bowls of “tong yuen” at my family’s house. I enjoy the homemade broth, the different meats and vegetables in it, and the round shaped dough balls. A few years ago I noticed that my friend’s mom prepared the dough balls differently. To tell the truth, I thought they tasted better. They were smaller in size and the dough was not very sticky.
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After reviewing a few recipes online, I told my mom that I would help out this year and make the dough balls while she prepared everything else. I mixed a bag of glutinous rice flour with warm water and started kneading the dough.
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I changed a couple of techniques from my mom. (Usually she would have placed the dough balls directly into the soup while she shaped them.) I shaped all the dough balls onto a tray. When I was done, I cooked them in a separate pot of boiling water.
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When the water reboils and the dough balls float, they are ready and can be removed. I pulled them out of the water and put them individually in each person’s bowl.

I was ready to enjoy my “tong yuen” so I took my bowl of dough balls and scooped a few ladles of my mom’s soup which had dried shrimp, pork, Chinese sausage, ham, shiitake mushrooms, Napa cabbage, and sliced turnip. I topped the soup off with cilantro and green onion. It was delicious and comforting. The texture of my dough balls were smooth and a good amount of gooey. I believe my technique worked. I think the dough balls needed to sit for awhile and cooking the dough in the water didn’t leave time for the dough to expand too much. My mom told me that from now on I could make the dough balls. I guess I can take that as a compliment.
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My family had the “tong yuen” for lunch. I ended up at my friend’s moms who was making “tong yuen” for dinner. I enjoyed some more there. Hers was still a little bit smaller and a little less sticky. So what is her secret? She adds some Farina hot wheat cereal to her mixture of glutinous rice flour and water.
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I’ve had my fill of “tong yuen” this year. I guess next year I will try again with another new technique.

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