Tangyuan or tang yuan (traditional Chinese: 湯圓; simplified Chinese: 汤圆; pinyin: tāngyuán; lit.: 'soup ball') is a Chinese dessert that is a ball of glutinous rice flour and water that has been either boiled and served in a hot broth or syrup or else deep-fried. Tangyuan can be either small or large and filled or unfilled. They are traditionally eaten during Yuanxiao in the Lantern Festival, but also served as a dessert on Chinese wedding day, Winter Solstice Festival (Chinese: 冬至; pinyin: dōngzhì), and any occasions such as family reunion, because of a homophone for union (traditional Chinese: 團圓; simplified Chinese: 团圆; pinyin: tuányuán)
|Place of origin||Greater China|
|Region or state||East Asia|
|Main ingredients||Glutinous rice flour|
|Variations||Regional variants differing in ingredients and method|
|Other information||Traditionally consumed during Yuanxiao (Lantern Festival)|
|Traditional Chinese||湯圓 or 湯團|
|Simplified Chinese||汤圆 or 汤团|
|Hanyu Pinyin||tāngyuán or tāngtuán|
|Hanyu Pinyin||yuán xiāo|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Traditional Chinese||圓仔 or 米圓|
|Simplified Chinese||圆仔 or 米圆|
|Hanyu Pinyin||yuánzǐ or mǐyuán|
Historically, a number of different names were used to refer to this food. During the Yongle era of the Ming Dynasty, the name was officially fixed as yuanxiao (derived from the Yuanxiao Festival), which is used in northern China. This name literally means "first evening", being the first full moon after Chinese New Year, which is always a new moon.
In southern China, however, they are called tangyuan. Legend has it that during Yuan Shikai's rule from 1912 to 1916, he disliked the name yuanxiao (Chinese: 元宵) because it sounded identical to "remove Yuan" (Chinese: 袁消); thus he gave orders to change the name to tangyuan. This new moniker literally means "round balls in soup" or "round dumplings in soup". In the Hakka and Cantonese varieties of Chinese, tangyuan is pronounced as "tong rhen" or "tong jyun". The term tangtuan (Hakka: tong ton, Cantonese: tong tyun) is not as commonly used in these varieties as tangyuan. Nowadays however, "tangyuan" usually refers to the southern style, while "yuanxiao" refers to the northern style, differentiated by their method of preparation.
This type of glutinous rice flour dumpling is eaten in both northern and southern China. Sweet fillings such as sugar, sesame, osmanthus flowers, sweet bean paste and sweetened tangerine peel are used. In northern China, "yuanxiao" is made by rolling small pieces of hardened filling in dry glutinous rice flour, adding water slowly, until it becomes a ball with a diameter of roughly 2 centimeters. Where as the southern "tangyuan", is made by wrapping soft filling in a glutinous rice "dough" similar to making a dumpling. In the South, it is common to have tang yuan plain in a savory soup made with Chinese (daikon) radish and home made fish cake.
For many Chinese families in mainland China as well as overseas, tangyuan is typically eaten together with family. The round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family cohesion. 
While tangyuan was originally a food eaten during festivals, it has become a dessert consumed year-round rather than simply a festival food. For instance, tangyuan is traditionally in white color. Yet, in order to cater to consumers’ needs and changing tastes, dessert specialty shops create new flavors or colors of tangyuan by substituting the traditional filling with chocolate, mashed potato and pumpkin paste. Thus, tangyuan has already evolved into a dessert that is consumed by Chinese from time to time throughout the year and is no longer limited to festivals. In both filled and unfilled tangyuan, the main ingredient is glutinous rice flour. A filled tangyuan's filling can be either sweet or savory. Northern variations mix sesame, peanuts, sweet bean paste and place them into bamboo baskets with rice flour, sprinkle water continuously on the rice flour to form the fillings and form round balls. Southern variations are typically larger, and are made by wrapping the filling into sticky rice flour wrapping and scrunching them into balls.
Sweet fillings can be:
- Chocolate paste (softened butter mixed with cocoa powder and stirred until blended)
- A piece of cut sugarcane rock candy
- Fruit preserves
- Sesame paste (ground black sesame seeds mixed with sugar and lard) - the most common filling
- Red bean paste (Azuki bean paste)
- Chopped peanuts (or peanut butter) and sugar
- Lotus seed paste
Tangyuan is first cooked in boiling water. Once cooked, the savory tangyuan is served in a clear soup broth, while sweet tangyuan is served in a ginger-infused syrup. Nowadays, deep-fried tangyuan have gained popularity in the Southern part of China. Filled tangyuan are put into hot oil to make its surface crispy (this is for deep-fried tangyuan).
Tangyuan has also come to be associated with the Winter Solstice and Chinese New Year in various regions. Today, the food is eaten all year round. Mass-produced tangyuan is commonly found in the frozen food section of Asian supermarkets in China and overseas.
Related dishes in Southeast AsiaEdit
In Indonesia, an adapted version, called Wedang Ronde (Wedang in Javanese means beverage, and Ronde means round ball), is a popular food eaten during cold temperatures. The round colored balls of glutinous rice can be filled with crushed peanuts and sugar, or left plain and is served in a sweetened, mild ginger broth often boiled in fragrant pandan leaves. Crushed, toasted peanuts, tapioca pearls, and slices of coconut can also be added.
In southern Vietnam, a similar dish called chè xôi nước, is served in a mild, sweet liquid flavored with grated ginger root. In northern Vietnam, bánh trôi (also called bánh trôi nước) and bánh chay are analogous, with the latter being served with coconut milk.
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