When I was young, my dad loved to turn on the tape recorder and pretend to interview me. There is one particularly amusing recording that sticks with me.
Because in America, I can eat tang yuan. What a misinformed little kid I was. I must have had no idea that “tang yuan”, or glutinous rice balls (aka mochi balls), were so much more Taiwanese than they were American.
Misinformed or not, even at such a young age, I knew that I absolutely loved eating these rice balls.
Decades later, nothing has really changed.
Well, I guess I’ve gotten slightly wiser. I now know that Taiwan has some amazing rice balls. I also know that you can get pretty perfect rice balls right here in the US, right in your own kitchen.
Here’s the little secret. These things are ridiculously easy to make from scratch. Seriously, it takes like 5 minutes, and only two ingredients.
There’s no need to ever buy those store-bought frozen ones again.
Tang yuan are traditionally eaten with family on the first full moon after the lunar new year (the fifteenth and final day of a two-week long new year celebration). Of course, there’s absolutely no reason to limit yourself to eating it once a year. In Taiwan, people eat these all year round, though it’s popular in the winter since tang yuan are usually eaten with comforting hot soups.
If you have glutinous rice flour on hand, the only other ingredient you really need is water! Simply mix together water and the flour until you form a nice, pliable dough. Roll out a log, and then cut equal sized pieces.
The next step is the most time-consuming one, but even this step only takes about 5 minutes. Individually roll out each piece into a sphere.
Though you may think it’s cute to stack them (aren’t they so cute!), I would try to keep them in a single layer. After all, you are dealing with glutinous rice flour, aka sticky rice flour. The rice balls will stick to each other when you stack them.
Bring a pot of water to boiling, add the rice balls, and cook briefly, just until they float to the top.
Add them to your red bean soup (recipe below), and enjoy!
Homemade Rice Balls
prep time 10 minutes
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1/3 cup water
1. Add water to flour one tablespoon at a time until a pliable dough forms.
2. Roll out a log about ½ inch thick.
3. Cut off ½ inch pieces.
4. Roll each piece into a sphere between the palms of both hands.
5. Cook briefly in boiling water until they float.
6. Put the cooked rice balls into the red bean soup
1 cup dried azuki beans (red beans)
4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1. Soak azuki beans in water overnight.
2. Drain the beans.
3. Bring 4-6 cups of water to a boil. Add the beans, bring a simmer, and cook for 45min to 1 h.
4. Add sugar (start with 1/2 cup and keep adding to taste)
5. Add homemade rice balls
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