I call these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango because on first impression, they look more like Japanese dango, but under the surface, they are more like Chinese tang yuan But tang yuan and dango are really cousins of one another – both are chewy sweet rice dumplings shaped into round balls. These Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango are topped with roasted black sesame seeds, freeze-dried strawberries and maple syrup.
The Lantern Festival, which marks the 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year recently passed, so I want to wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year again as we end the celebrations for this year. Remember that at the start of Chinese New Year we had Matcha Nian Gao to celebrate? We had it because “nian gao” or “sticky cake” as directly translated, also sounds like the words “high year” in Chinese, so it is a play on words to wish fortune upon others for the new year.
Tang yuan is another favorite to eat during Chinese New Year celebrations. It’s sometimes enjoyed on Chinese New Year Eve, and other times eaten to celebrate the Lantern Festival. Tang yuans are round sticky rice dumplings with filling and served in hot water or ginger water. The roundness of tang yuan symbolizes togetherness, so eating them will bring good fortune and happiness to your family. They also happen to be super delicious!
Tang yuans are moderately easy to make, but they require several steps since if you want to make tang yuan from scratch, you need to make the outside dough as well as the inside filling. They also require resting time for chilling the filling before you hand roll each one. I love making them – when I have the time –, but these days with a toddling one-year-old hanging onto my calves when I’m in the kitchen, shortcuts and simplified recipes are my friend.
The roundness of tang yuan symbolizes togetherness, so eating them will bring good fortune and happiness to your family
We had some friends over during Chinese New Year and I wanted to give them a taste of this tang yuan tradition, but Milo would not nap that day, so creativity got the best of me and I decided to make a hybrid of tang yuan and Japanese dango.
Tang yuan and dango are really cousins of one another; both are chewy sweet dumplings made of rice flour and shaped into round balls. Tang yuan is made with glutinous rice flour (also known as sweet rice flour), often contains a filling of sorts (black sesame, red bean paste, taro… to name a few), and is served in bowls of water or ginger water. Dango is made with mochiko rice flour (a specific type of glutinous rice flour), contains no filling inside, is served on skewers with various toppings, and sometimes grilled.
Tang yuan and dango are really cousins of one another; both are chewy sweet rice dumplings shaped into round balls
I call these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango because on first impression, they look more like dango, but under the surface, they are more like tang yuan. The recipe uses glutinous rice flour (not specifically mochiko rice flour), and the method of making them is how I make tang yuan.
But unlike tang yuan, these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango have no filling, meaning you get to cut out a few steps from a tang yuan recipe. Instead, flavors and textures sit on the outside of these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango; I chose to go with a sprinkling of black sesame and freeze-dried strawberry bits, and a glaze of maple syrup.
You can quickly add additional flavors and texture to these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango
I know I’m posting this Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango recipe a bit late, but really, it’s probably not too late to eat some to bring you and your family good fortune and happiness for the rest of this year. Imagine gnashing your teeth together on a soft fluffy cloud and being able to do so multiple times before it starts losing its form and breaking apart. That’s what you’ll get with these Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango. Happy chewing!
Strawberry Tang Yuan Dango
- 170 grams frozen strawberries (1 cup)
- 60 grams granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
- 45 milliliters water (3 tablespoons)
Tang Yuan Dango
- 190 grams glutinous rice flour (1 1/2 cups) (also called sticky rice flour or sweet rice flour)
- 80 milliliters water (1/3 cup)
- 30 milliliters neutral flavored oil (2 tablespoons) (such as grapeseed, canola, or sunflower)
- 60 milliliters strawberry syrup (1/4 cup)
- maple syrup - for serving
- freeze-dried strawberries - for serving
- toasted black sesame seeds - for serving
Make the strawberry syrup
In a small saucepan, bring the water, strawberries, and sugar to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the strawberries have released their juices and softened, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Carefully strain the syrup to remove the softened strawberries. I set a colander over a bowl and pour the strawberry syrup through the colander, pressing the strawberries against the sides of the colander with a spatula. Discard the strawberries, or save them for another use, such as topping on waffles. You should have just over 1/4 cup of strawberry syrup.
Make the tang yuan dango
In a large bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, water and the strawberry syrup with a fork. The mixture will be very dry and chalky.
Using your hands, make 2 small balls (about 1 tablespoon each) by squeezing the mixture tightly together with your palms and fingers. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the 2 balls for about 5 minutes, until they are floating and slightly swelled up. Remove the cooked balls and add them back into the bowl, along with the oil.
When it is cool enough for you to handle, using your hands, mix everything together. The dough should start to come together. At that point, transfer the dough onto the countertop and knead everything together for at least 5 min. At this point, the dough should be very smooth, slightly sticky, and easy to handle, with no clumps at all. If the dough seems tough and cracks after kneading for 5 minutes, knead in additional water by the teaspoon. If it's sticky, slowly knead in more glutinous rice flour.
Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into thirds. You should have 6 pieces of dough. Make 3 balls with each piece of dough by breaking off a piece of dough and rolling it in your palms. You should have 18 smooth balls by the end.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Gently drop the balls into the pot. Give it a gentle stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until all the tang yuan dango are floating and slightly swelled up. In the meantime, prepare a large bowl with ice and water. When the tang yuan dango are done cooking, use a slotted spoon and immediately transfer them into the bowl of ice and water. Allow to cool for 20 seconds, then drain well.
Put 3 dango onto each skewer. Top with roasted black sesame seeds, freeze-dried strawberries, and maple syrup. Serve immediately. Alternatively, you can keep the dango at room temperature for a few hours. Add on a bit of maple syrup first (to prevent the dango from sticking to one another and to the plate), and top with the sesame seeds, freeze-dried strawberries, and additional maple syrup just prior to serving.
Due to the fine texture of glutinous rice flour and the careful balance needed between the liquid ingredients and dry ingredients, this recipe benefits from being measured by weight (grams) as opposed to volume (cups).
You can also use the strawberry syrup recipe from this Vegan Strawberry Milk if you want to make these tang yuan dango without refined sugars. You will only need half of the strawberry syrup recipe.
Recipe for the sticky rice balls adapted from the sticky rice wrappers from Lady and Pups Peanut Butter Sticky Rice Balls in Green Tea.