Dongzhi (冬至) or Winter Solstice festival is one of the most important celebrations for Chinese people.
It falls on December 22 this year, which is tomorrow.
I have never written about Dongzhi festival on Rasa Malaysia, but this year, I’ve decided to write a post about it, sharing my family’s tang yuan recipe, as a tribute to my late aunt who recently passed away.
Last December, I was home in Penang. My son and I spent three months and celebrated Dongzhi (and then Chinese New Year) with my family.
Little did I know those three months would be the last time I spent time with my aunt.
My aunt, who passed away in October, had always been the ones tasked with all the celebrations and ceremonial rituals in our family, for as long as I could remember.
She was the gate keeper for us, constantly reminded us and made sure that we observed the important festivities so ingrained in our culture.
As a child, Dongzhi had always been a fun festival that I so looking forward to.
The reason is simple: I love tang yuan, or sweet dumplings served in pandan leaf and ginger infused syrup.
In my native dialect Hokkien, tang yuan is “nyee,” which aptly means “round or circle.”
I have countless childhood memories when all of us—my aunt and cousins—would gather around in the kitchen area, helping my aunt rolling the dough into small round balls.
As a young child, I absolutely loved and enjoyed playing with the dough balls.
My aunt would make a big batch of white dough, then she would separate it into three different portions: plain white, pink, and yellow. She would start off by adding the red color powder into the white dough to make the pink dough, and then the yellow coloring to make the yellow dough.
My cousins and I would then help to roll the dough balls into small, beautiful round balls.
My aunt was so skillful as she could roll a few tang yuan at one time, and each of them would always come out beautiful and perfectly round.
On the morning of Dongzhi, other than Tang Yuan, she would have plenty of dishes, specially made and prepared for prayers.
All the foods would be served in traditional serveware (like the bowl and spoon pictured above) and as offerings to our ancestors.
After the prayers, my big family would all gather around having a feast, savoring delicious tang yuan and the amazing array of foods prepared by her.
Year after year, for numerous times a year, she followed our rituals religiously, and keeping our rich family legacy alive…
You might also try my other sweet dumplings recipes: black sesame dumplings, red bean dumplings, peanut dumplings.
Happy Dongzhi festival!
How Many Calories per Serving?
This recipe is only 406 calories per serving.
5 Secrets to 20 Min Dinners
Get tricks for quick & easy meals!
Dongzhi Tang Yuan (Sweet Dumplings) Recipe
Dongzhi (冬至) or Winter Solstice festival is one of the most important celebrations for Chinese.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2-3 pandan leaves or screwpine leaves tie into a knot
- 1 piece ginger peeled and slightly pounded with a cleaver 2-inch
Glutinous Rice Dumplings
- 2 cups glutinous rice sticky rice flour
- 7 oz. water
- red and yellow food coloring
1To prepare syrup, boil the water in a pot. Add the screwpine leaves and ginger and bring it to boil on medium heat until you smell and ginger and pandan leaves aroma. Add sugar and let it simmer for another 15 minutes minutes. Add more or reduce the sugar, to taste. Set aside.
2In a big bowl, mix glutinous flour with water and knead with hands to form a dough. The dough is done when it doesn't stick to your hands anymore.
3Divide the dough into 3 portions, with the plain dough the biggest portion. Add 2-3 drops of each food coloring to make the pink and yellow dough.
4Pinch the dough into small balls and roll them in between your palms into round balls. Set aside on a flat surface lined with paper or a slightly damp cloth.
5Boil another pot of water, drop the dumplings into the boiling water. As soon as they float, transfer them into the syrup water. Serve immediately.
Adjust the water level to the flour. Add more water if the dough is too dry. Add more flour if it's too wet.
thank you for this recipe! what can i use to sub the pandan / screwpine leaves?
You can skip if you don’t have them.
Love reading your story about your aunt. It’s so nostalgic. Thanks for sharing your recipe. You make it looks easy. I have not made this before. My daughter loves this so I will try to follow your recipe and make it for the first time.
Can I substitute potato starch for glutinous rice flour?
Sorry to hear of your loss. Growing up, it was my grandma who raised me and whom I made tangyuan with as a child. After she passed on, I went overseas and have never risen risen up to many of the traditions so dear to us, save for a few dishes. Would love to try this recipe for this year’s dongzhi.
No, potato starch is not glutinous rice flour.
Hi! I was wondering if I could use rock sugar to substitute the sugar. If I were to substitute it, would it be the same amount? Is there a recipe for like the peanut and red bean filling for the dumplings or Tang Yuan? Thank you for the recipe. Will definitely try it.
Please add rock sugar to taste. Yes, please search the recipes on my site.
My dumplings can put super basic and not really good. I had this one time with a friend who married a Chinese lady and i remember it being delicious, mine not so much. Extremely bland, not sweet but the syrup was good bc I love ginger. Anyways is this how it’s suppose to be or am i not doing it right? Also i think i made my too big maybe a inch and a half bc they took forever to float.
Maybe too big. The dumplings don’t have taste. The taste is in the syrup.
Thank you for sharing this simply and easy to follow recipe. Have tried a few Tang Yuan recipe before, still not satisfied me. Definitely will try this. By the way, can I refrigerated cook in syrup Tang Yuan (sometimes I “accidentally” cook more), because the precious recipe I tried, the Tang Yuan become hard.
Yes it will become hard but just warm up again and they will be fine.
Your pic looks amazing! Will go and buy pandan leaves tomorrow to try out your recipe… thanks!
Nice! I was just looking for a recipe because today is yuanxiao.
I am so sorry to hear of your aunts passing but happy to hear of the traditions and memories she has left with you. I am an american who find great joy in learning and celebrating traditions from other cultures being that america does not have its own deep routed traditions. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us all. As I make this I will surly think of the memories you had of your aunt.
Pixie, thanks for your sweet comment. :)