Today marks the Winter Solstice Festival (“Dongzhi” 冬至), which is an important festival in Chinese culture and typically celebrated on/around December 22nd. This tradition dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) when both government officials and commoners would have a day to reunite with their families.
In the southern parts of China, especially Hong Kong, the Winter Solstice Festival is a time for family members to meet, gather for dinner, and have tangyuan (湯圓 ). Tangyuan is a type of small dumpling made of glutinous rice flour and stuffed with either a peanut paste, red bean paste, or sesame paste. Due to the round shape of these dumplings and of the serving bowls, tangyuan symbolizes togetherness, fullness, and completeness- an ideal food that fits the very meaning of the Winter Solstice Festival.
Total Time: 25 minutes
Black Sesame Dumplings
8 oz. glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup black sesame powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. oil (can substitute with unsalted butter)
Ginger Sweet Soup
4 cups water
1 slice of brown sugar 片糖 (can substitute with granulated sugar)
4 oz. ginger, peeled and sliced
1) Boil the water, cane sugar, and ginger in a pot over medium-high heat for about 10-12 minutes.
2) In the meantime, pour the glutinous rice flour in a bowl and gradually add the water until it just forms a dough (Note: you may not require all the water). The dough should be soft and formable. Knead the dough for 5 minutes.
3) Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll it in the palm of your hands to form small balls. Set aside.
4) In a small bowl, mix the black sesame powder, granulated sugar, and oil until it forms a grainy paste.
5) Flatten the glutinous rice balls in your hands. With a spoon, scoop about .5tsp. of the black sesame paste into the middle.
6)Pinch the ends of the dough together to enclose the paste within the dumpling. Gently roll the dough again between your palms so that it is round again.
7) Add the dumplings to the pot of ginger sweet soup. Let boil for 5-10 minutes until the dumplings begin to float to the top of the water. Serve immediately.
Scoop a moderate amount of the black sesame paste into the dumplings. Adding too much filling will cause the dumplings to “burst”; and, the filling would leak into the ginger sweet soup.