January 18, 2015

Black Sesame Sticky Rice Balls (Tang Yuan, 黑芝麻汤圆)

Tang yuan, or tong yun (Cantonese pronunciation) is like the hybrid dessert of  tortellini/ravioli and gnocchi. 
The exterior is a (gluten-free) sticky rice dough, which is chewy like mochi (pretty much the the same dough as mochi dough but cooked differently), and the filling is usually sweet (can be made savory) and is varied: black sesame, peanut (these are my two faves), and even red bean.

This recipe can actually be easily made at home (just takes some experimentation) and is gluten-free & vegan! 

test the black sesame seeds to see if they're properly toasted by rubbing them together.
if the shells come off and they shatter into crumbs, then they're ready!

in retrospect, i think that i should have left the black sesame seeds in the food processor for longer; i think that
if the black sesame seeds were slightly tackier (closer to a "nearly" tahini texture), i could have spooned them
into little balls and placed them in the refrigerator to firm up. this would have made wrapping the tang yuan much easier,
and i think that this filling might have melted or become a little creamier after being cooked, which would be
much tastier ;) so try that out and let me know how it goes!

if you have any extra toasted black sesame filling, try using it as an ice cream topping, an addition to granola, or even in your oatmeal! 
Here's my Black Sesame Pumpkin Oatmeal recipe :): http://hannahclaudia.blogspot.com/2015/01/black-sesame-pumpkin-oatmeal.html

the brand of glutinous rice flour (sticky rice flour) i used

i cringe whenever i have to mix flour and dough together by hand, but honestly, it's the quickest and easiest way to make the dough,
and this dough comes together fairly well, so your hands won't really be left all dough-y

the dough should be smooth; if you need more water, add tablespoon by tablespoon. if it's too liquidy, add a little more flour.

take a little chunk of dough and roll into a ball first.
then stick your thumb in the middle of the dough ball and then take a little spoonful of filling and fill the indent you just created.
pinch the edges around the filling to seal up the ball.

(don't try to flatten the dough out and wrap it around the filling; the dough will crack!)

leave to rest on some rice flour while you're making more. 
you can immediately cook these or freeze them (just cook them straight from the freezer too, no need to defrost)

Recipe: Black Sesame Sticky Rice Balls (Tang Yuan)
By: Hannah Claudia

black sesame filling:
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
(opt) 1/4 cup of brown sugar  (i think i'll try honey or maple syrup next time to help bind the mixture)
1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil

sticky rice dough:
3 cups of glutinous rice flour
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water


1. Toast the sesame seeds in a large pan on medium heat until fragrant & the sesame seeds shatter into pieces if rubbed between your fingers.
2. Let the sesame seeds cool for a minute or two, and place in a food processor. Pulse until you get fine crumbs and add sesame oil(or, until the mixture becomes slightly tacky --- nearly making tahini but still slightly crumbly).
3. Mix the sesame seeds with the brown sugar (this can be made without the brown sugar, but i think you really need this!)
4. In a large bowl, gradually add the water to the rice flour. Add the 1 cup first, mix with your hands to form a dough, and if needed, add more water. The dough should be smooth.
5. Pinch off a 1.5-2" chunk of dough. Roll it into a ball. (Flouring your hands might be helpful!)
6. Take your thumb and push it into the ball, making an indent. Take 1/2 teaspoon-1 tsp of filling and pack it into the indent.
7. Pull the edges of the dough around the filling up and pinch them together to seal the dough ball. 
8. Place the sticky rice ball on a plate dusted with rice flour. Repeat the process until all the dough is gone (you can save the filling for future recipes or add it to oatmeal, ice cream sundaes, etc)
9. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a few of the rice balls at a time (don't overcrowd the pot) (amount depends on the size of your pot). When the rice balls have floated to the top, cook for 2-3 minutes longer. You can test the doneness by cutting into one with a kitchen shear and checking to see if there's any raw dough.
10. Serve with the water that it was cooked in (my mom has always told me that we should drink the water like it's soup) or make a simple syrup with equal parts sugar/honey and water!

xoxo, han

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