On the 15th day of Chinese New Year, on the first full moon after the start of the New Year, the Chinese tradition is to eat Tang Yuan (汤圆, tang1 yuan2, or in Cantonese more like tong yuen). In the North it is also known as Yuan Xiao (or Yuanxiao, 元宵, Yuan2 Xiao1). According to China Daily, the Northern versions is made differently from the Southern versions: “People in north China make yuanxiao by rolling a hard stuffing in glutinous rice flour. In south China, tangyuan is prepared by placing the filling inside rice flour wrapping, similar to the making of jiaozi.” Food is a good metaphor for China, which is a country with vast regional differences.
Today–Sunday February 28, the 15th day of Chinese New Year–I’m going to wander out into Shanghai in search of Tang Yuan. I’ll post some pictures of what I find here.
Update 3/1: Here’s a picture of a place called Die Yuan (Butterfly Garden) at Nanjing West Rd near the Metro Station (Dianping reviews in Chinese). A huge crowd was buying Tang Yuan for preparation at home:
But since I didn’t really want to bring it home to prepare it, we ate out and had a few for dessert:
Tong Yuan (which means “round dumpling in soup”) is mainly made out of a glutinous rice flour. When you bite into it, the dumpling gives way in a soft but chewy manner. Honestly, when I was growing up, I found it a bit of a disconcerting texture. Tong Yuan can be filled with some kind of sweet filling. The kind I’m most familiar with is the black sesame paste, which also looks appealing to the Western eye in my opinion. It can also have red bean paste, chopped peanuts, and other stuff (so says Wikipedia). Here’s some recipes I found on RasaMalaysia and KQED.
Yuan Xiao also comes from Yuan Xiao Jie (元宵节, Yuan2 Xiao1 Jie1) which means Lantern Festival. So I guess it is Lantern Festival today. Here are some other (much better) photos of Tong Yuan to whet your appetite. (Note: I was able to find these on Flickr from Shanghai without launching my VPN! Thank you, Great Firewall for allowing me to freely access Flickr!)
Tang Yuan in a bowl with clear sugary soup (from avlxyz):
Tang Yuan in black sesame soup (from qwazymonkey):
Tong Yuen in a Peanut Soup (from faykwong):
Black sesame filling inside of the Tang Yuan (from roboppy):
Tongyuan in a red bean soup (from wowyt):
Here’s Tangyuan in a white soup: