Celebrate Chinese New Year with Rice Balls in sweet syrup

Mass Appeal

(Mass Appeal) – Chinese New Year happens tomorrow. One traditional food that’s popular for the holiday is glutinous rice balls. Kathleen Wang and Marilyn Kusek from the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School show us how to make these family favorite treats.

Glutinous Rice Balls in Sweet Syrup (Tang Yuan)


Glutinous Rice Balls:
2 cups glutinous rice flour
½ cup boiling water
½ cup COLD water (amount depends on dough consistency)
1/8 tsp food coloring (optional)

Sweet Syrup:
4 cups water
1 cup dark brown sugar


Making the sweet syrup:

  1. To cook the syrup, first, bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add sugar and and boil for another 5 minutes. Cover and lower heat to simmer and continue to cook for another 5 minutes,
    until all the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Set aside the syrup to cool while we prepare the glutinous rice balls.

Making the Glutinous Rice Balls:

  1. In a big bowl, add hot boiling water into glutinous rice flour to half cook the flour.
    Using a spoon or spatula, stir to mix well.
  2. Then slowly add some cold water into the dough. Water should be added a little at a time, depending on the humidity of the flour.
    Knead the flour as you add the water to check on the consistency of the dough.
    Mix and knead till a smooth dough is formed.
  3. Optional – do only if you want colorful rice balls. Divide the dough into smaller portions and knead 1-2 drops of food coloring into each portion of dough
    to make different colored batches of dough. Leave one portion plain white. Red is traditional.
  4. Form each dough into long strips and using the palms of your hands, roll them into balls about 1/2-3/4 inch diameter. They can be in different sizes.
    Place the glutinous rice balls onto a lightly floured plate to prevent sticking. Then, cover to prevent drying until they are cooked (see below for cooking instructions).

Cooking Glutinous Rice Balls:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure there is enough water to submerge the rice balls completely.
  2. Add the glutinous rice balls and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice balls from sticking.
    The glutinous rice balls are cooked when they starts to float to the surface.
  3. Add 1 cup of cold water into the pot when the rice balls start to float. This is to ensure the glutinous rice balls are cooked thoroughly.
    Cover and continue to cook till the rice balls float to the surface again. And we’re done!
  4. Using a sieve, drain out the cooked glutinous rice balls from the pot.
  5. Place them into a large bowl of cold water for about one minute. This will prevent the glutinous rice balls from sticking to one another and make them more chewy.
    Then drain and transfer the glutinous rice balls into the sweet syrup. Serve warm or cold.

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