One of my favourite Chinese desserts is the sweet glutinous rice dumplings, lovingly known as tang yuan. Traditionally, these are eaten during yuan xiao or during the Winter Solstice Festival as they signify reunion with their name. They are also eaten during Lunar New Year as well as traditional Chinese weddings because of the good meanings. These little goodies are usually made with glutinous rice flour with water to form a dough and boiled in water. The modern ones include a filling paste of either sesame, peanut, red bean or yam. When cooked, the dumplings are pure white in colour.
Recently, I chanced upon these dumplings called crystal tang yuan in the local supermarket. The first time I heard about them is from my friend when we were in Hong Kong and we bought a packet of mixed flavours just to try them
The ones sold here only have the sesame and yam flavours while the one in Hong Kong has the sweet potato flavour as well. The product states that there is no artificial colouring used and the tang yuan turns transparent because of the lotus root powder used in the dough.
Cooking these little pearls is quite similar to the other instant ones we get from the supermarket. The package has to be stored in the freezer and when you are ready to cook them, there is no need to thaw them. You can just pop them into boiling water directly from the fridge.
The only complication is that you start cooking them on high heat for a few minutes, then turn it to medium heat and open the lid of the pot. There are very clear instructions on the packaging on how these should be cooked to get the perfect crystal tang yuan. The colours of the yam one were very pretty as with the sweet potato ones but the black sesame ones looked more like melons with the yellow strips.
There is not much of taste for the tang yuan crystal skin so it is entirely dependant on the fillings to give it the sweetness. Unlike the usual white ones, these transparent ones have a better texture as they are chewy and springy. They are also very pretty to bite into but the downside for me is that the fillings are quite little and does not have sufficient flavours to enhance the entire ball. I like my tang yuan with fillings that flow when I bite into them so when the fillings of the crystal tang yuan remain solid, I was quite disappointed.
Overall, the crystal tang yuan is very pretty to add to any dessert because of their transparent colours making them look just like gleaming pearls. For taste, I would still go for the usual ones we get from the supermarkets.