In Malaysia, Tong Yuen (Cantonese) or Tang Yuan (Mandarin) 汤圆 is eaten on the Winter Solstice Festival (冬至) and Chinese New Years Eve. It's easy to get these Tong Yuen on the frozen aisle in Chinese supermarkets if you live in New York City. I do miss making them like I would with my grandma every year.
Me and grandma would pre-roll these Tong Yuen into balls the night before Winter Solstice Festival and Chinese New Year Eve. We cook them up in the morning before we proceed to cook up a feast for the family dinner. Tong Yuen does brings back fond memories of me and grandma so I decided to make them from scratch this year. I think me and grandma had only made Tong Yuen from scratch only a few times, we usually buy pre-made dough and would just roll them ourselves.
Traditional Tong Yuen are white (original dough color) and red (it's really more pink than red) but you can get creative and use other food coloring. Because I am making these for Christmas Eve, I made them white, red and green. Using pandan leaves is optional, but you know how Malaysian are --- pandan leaves is to Malaysians as vanilla essence is to Americans.
Tong Yuen dough:
2 cups sweet rice flour/mochiko
1/2 cup rice flour
7 oz. cold water
1/4 cup white sugar
Tong Yuen sweet soup:
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 inch ginger, bruised (more ginger if you like it gingery)
A few pieces of pandan leaves (optional)
Knead ingredients together into a pliable dough that won't stick to your hands. You can add more sweet rice flour/mochiko until the dough is not sticky. Divide them into portions. Add a few drops of food coloring into each portion and knead until well distributed. You can make as many color varieties as possible. Here, I made white, red and green. You can also mix these colored doughs together to achieve a marbled effect. Wrap up the dough with plastic wrap inside the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. The dough is much more pliable then.
To make the sweet soup, boil water, sugar, ginger and pandan leaves until a rolling boil. Then, turn the flame to low and let it steep for about 30 minutes. While you let the soup steep, start cooking the Tong Yuen.
To cook the Tong Yuen, roll them up into small balls about the size of a quarter. In a large pot, boil water until it's in a rolling boil. Drop Tong Yuen into the pot but be careful not to overcrowd them.
Cook them as you would cook pasta, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes, at which point all of the Tong Yuen should float to the top. Drain Tong Yuen and transfer them to the sweet soup. Serve warm.