The Winter Solstice is one of the most important Chinese festivities and it usually falls on or around December 22nd of each year. In 2014, the Winter Solstice is observed on Sunday, December 21.
The origins of the festival go way back to the ancient Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. Following the celebration, there are longer daylight hours and, therefore, an increase of positive energy flowing in.
Traditionally, the Winter Solstice festival is a time for family reunions. A common activity during this get-together is the making and eating of tangyuan (汤圆) or sweet rice balls which are sometimes brightly coloured. The round shapes of tangyuan symbolize togetherness in Chinese culture.
Each family member will receive at least one large tangyuan in addition to several small ones per serve. The rice balls, either plain or stuffed, are served in a sweet soup or savory broth. Both the rice balls and the soup are served in one big bowl before the start of a grand reunion dinner. The festival food reminds us that everyone is now a year older and should behave better in the coming year.
I have developed a healthier version of tangyuan for the vegan macrobiotic diet using organic ingredients such as momen tofu, unbleached sweet rice flour, pumpkin, beet, matcha, rice syrup, screw pine leaves (pandan leaves), sea salt and adzuki bean paste as filling.
Healthy tangyuan recipes
Food quality: vegan, macrobiotic, gluten-free
1. Basic tangyuan recipe (Original flavor using organic ingredients)
This recipe makes about 40 small tangyuan.
2. Pumpkin flavoured tangyuan
3. Matcha green tea flavoured tangyuan
To make tangyuan with fillings:
1. Make bigger round balls.
2. Press to flatten.
3. Stuff the center with one tablespoon of adzuki bean paste.
4. Gather the edges.
5. Set aside.
4. How to cook tangyuan
5. Traditional sweet soup for the Tangyuan
6. A different way to serve: Tangyuan and pumpkin ice cream parfait
Recipe written by June Ka Lim, macrobiotic chef and counselor