Winter Solstice

Yesterday¬†was the shortest day of the year, or winter solstice. This means that the days will start to get longer from now on. My wife had made up her mind that she was going to invite friends over for a meal and have a lovely steamboat. She also wanted to make glutinous rice balls or tang yuan, a dessert served at many different traditional chinese festivals and celebrations, including winter solstice. It has been a while since I’ve posted some food photos, so I thought this gave me a great opportunity to share photos of the food from the day.

It all began in the afternoon, when my wife, two children and a friend started to make these little round parcels made up of  glutinous rice flour. Water was added to the glutinous rice flour and then kneaded into dough. They split it into 4 different portions to make the various colours Рwhite, yellow, pink and green Рit was to be cooked in that order as well, so that the colouring would not stain the lighter coloured glutinous rice balls.The different colours do make it look very nice.

Kneaded pink glutinous rice dough
Kneaded pink glutinous rice dough
White glutinous rice balls or tang yuan
An army of white glutinous rice balls or tang yuan

Although both my daughters enjoyed making these glutinous rice balls, they both were unwilling to eat these – I suppose they do come from the generation of playing with Play Doh, and you don’t eat Play Doh – so I can sort of understand; but the youngest did enjoy the syrup though.

My youngest daughter helping to shape these little balls
My youngest daughter helping to shape these little balls

When immersed in the water, these tang yuan will naturally sink to the bottom of the pot. It is easy to tell when they are done, as they will start to float up to the surface. They are then ready to be taken out and cooled down – to stop further cooking from taking place.

When placed into the boiling water, the glutinous rice balls will sink to the bottom
When placed into the boiling water, the glutinous rice balls will sink to the bottom
When they are cooked, they will float to the surface
When they are cooked, they will float to the surface

These are then taken out and cooled in cold water to stop the cooking

When cooked, these are then taken out and cooled in cold water to stop the cooking

And once they are all cooked, they can be served in a sweet watery syrup. Rather colourful, don’t you think?

The final product - multicoloured tang yuan served in a sugar syrup
The final product – multicoloured tang yuan served in a sugar syrup

For dinner, my wife went to the Fish market in Botley to buy large king prawns and also to the Chinese grocery store to buy various vegetables, fish balls and fish cakes for the steam boat.

Fresh large king prawns
Fresh large king prawns
Assorted fish balls
Assorted fish balls

By the time I was able to take the above pictures, most of the food had already gone into the steam boat and was cooking. It did not take very long for the food to be fully cooked, and ready to serve.

The steam boat with all the meat and vegetables mixed together
The steam boat with all the meat and vegetables mixed together

As usual, my wife cooked much more than we could finish. But everyone enjoyed the food immensely, and had some to take-away too.

Boon