Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Savory Tang Yuan (素鹹湯圓)

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VB and I spent most of Chinese New Year in Taiwan. There's always a chaotic aspect to Chinese New Year, which I think can be a bit overwhelming. But the best thing (besides the red envelopes, hehe) about Chinese New Year is always the food -- the variety, all the delicacies and sweet snacks. And it's not over until 15 days later, on Lantern Festival, when everyone eats these stuffed glutinous rice balls called tang yuan. They come in different sweet, savory and unfilled varieties. Here, I made some savory tang yuan, a little too late for Lantern Festival but a delicious treat nevertheless.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook that I picked up in Taiwan. You'll need:
  • 3 cups glutinous rice flour, divided into 1/2 cup and 2 1/2 cups
  • 11/12 cups cold water, divided into 1/4 cup and 2/3 cup
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 portion filling, recipe below
  • chopped Chinese celery
  • chopped cilantro leaves
  • ground white pepper
  • drizzle of sesame oil, optional
For the filling, you'll need:
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 1-inch slice of vegetarian ham, about 3 ounces, diced
  • 4 ounces of unflavored bean curd, diced
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch
Rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms by immersing them in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, remove stems and rough chop into bite sizes. Squeeze out any excess water. To a food processor, add mushrooms, bean curd and vegetarian ham. Process until mixture becomes granulated and can easily squeezed into a ball. Place mixture into a prep bowl, add soy sauce, ground white pepper and tapioca starch. Mix well. Start forming small balls by placing approximately 2 teaspoons of the mixture in your hand and squeeze tightly. Set aside.

Begin by bringing a pot of water to boil. In a prep bowl, add 1/4 cup of cold water to 1/2 cup of glutinous rice flour. Form dough. Split dough into 3 pieces and flatten. Boil pieces of dough until they float, about 2 to 5 minutes. Remove dough from boiling water. Place dough into a prep bowl and allow it cool. Add 2 1/2 cups of glutinous rice flour to bowl. Add 1/2 cup of hot water and mix well. Add 2/3 cup of cold water and canola oil. Form dough by incorporating all the flour and kneading lightly.

Take a piece of dough and roll into a ball. The ball should be slightly bigger than the size of your filling. If the dough sticks to your hands, spray your hands with some canola oil spray before handling the dough. Flatten the ball into a disc and stretch the disc gently by pressing with your thumbs. Place the filling in the middle of the disc. Pinch edges to close. Be careful not to stretch the dough too much or you will tear the dough. If the dough does tear, you can easily patch it up with a scrap piece. Roll it around in your palms to form a smooth ball. While you are working, cover completed tang yuan with wet paper towel to prevent them from drying out.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add tang yuan and boil for about 5 minutes. They are cooked when they float, turn milky and slightly translucent. Gently ladle tang yuan into serving bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot water to the bowl, garnish with some chopped cilantro, celery, ground white pepper and sesame oil.

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