Happy Dongzhi Festival!
21 December 2012. Everyone is busy wondering if it is the end of the world. Well well well, we won’t know if the world will end on December 21, but the 2012 winter solstice is still on the astronomical calendar. So my family is busy making tang yuan for winter solstice today.
The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (冬至), literally means “the Extreme of Winter” and is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese. This is the shortest day, and longest night of the year. It is the day when families get together and eat tāng yuán (汤圆), a sweet soup made of glutinous rice balls. It is also the day when everyone becomes one year older.
Sadly, Winter Solstice is a forgotten celebration today. Because at this time, Christmas preparations are taking place, and people are busy eat turkeys and buying Christmas present. But in my family, Winter Solstice is the traditional time to celebrate the truly important things in life and looking forward to a wonderful year to come.
One activity we do together is to make tang yuan. Tang yuan is a dish of glutinous rice balls served in a sweet broth. By eating tang yuan, we welcome in the winter and become one year older. It is quite easy to prepare. Preparation started the day before when we have to first fry the peanuts and ground them.
We didn’t do everything from scratch. We bought the glutinous rice dough directly from the market. It is more convenient and it comes in the right texture and has two colours – red and white. For the past few years, my grandpa only bought 1 kg of dough. But I always complain it is not enough so this year he bought 2kg!
So, we just pinch off pieces of the dough and roll it into small balls.
Tong Yuan can also be stuffed with a paste made from peanut butter, black sesame seeds or red beans. If you realised, we made 13 BIG balls with peanuts because according to the Chinese Calendar, we have 13 months with a leap month (闰月) this year.
The rest are all plain (kosong) ones. If you are wondering, I rolled the pink ones and they are lesser because I was busy taking photos! haha
Then we drop the balls into boiling water with pandan leaves and cook them until they float – about 5 to 10 minutes.
While the balls are cooking, prepare a sweet soup by boiling water and adding brown sugar. Fresh ginger can also be added to the soup.
TADEH! My tang yuan is done! Tang yuan symbolizes reunion and I wish all of you a Happy Dongzhi Festival! Forget about Doomsday lah, just have a bowl of tang yuan and chill! 🙂