Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lantern Festival - Yuan Xiao

You can find all our posts on Chinese New Year HERE
On Sunday, after solving our riddles, we made some Yuan Xiao (as they are known in Northern China) or Tang Yuan (as they are known in Southern China). These sweet glutinous rice balls are eaten so much during the lantern festival that it is also known as the Yuan Xiao festival.

Tang Yuan literally means "round balls in soup", and their round shape represents family togetherness. They can be found with or without a filling, such as red bean paste and black sesame paste, and are served in a sweet soup.

Read more to make Tang Yuan

To make the Yuan Xiao, the girls each had a bowl with 2 cups of glutinous rice flour. They then poured 1/4 cup of very warm water, and started mixing. Once that is combined, add water in small increments until the dough feels like play dough. Elle added to much water, and it was similar to holding slime. Luckily, we had an extra glutinous rice flour bag to dip into.  
With their glutinous "playdough", the girls rolled the dough into balls, which were later placed in a large pot of boiling water. The Yuan Xiao will drop to the bottom - continue cooking them until they have been cooking at the surface of the water for five minutes. This took us approximately 15 minutes, and they had expanded a fair bit. If you don't want to cook them right away, apparently they can be frozen once formed into balls, to be cooked later.
Remove the Yuan Xiao from the water with a slotted spoon, serve in a bowl with very hot water and sugar to taste. We used brown sugar.

I served everyone (and this included my mother, and my sister's family) one Tang Yuan in a tea cup of sweet soup. All around, they were not popular. My sister, who has been to china, says she tasted something very similar, but it was smaller and with a filling. The Yuan Xiao had a texture that was fairly unpleasant to us, and most weren't finished. No complaints about the sugar soup though :)

The next day I picked up some black sesame paste at the Asian grocery, and tried my hand at making just a few more to see if making them smaller, and with a filling would make a difference. As seen in the above picture, these rolled balls were fairly small, I put a teaspoon next to them for comparison. After rolling the balls, I made an indent and squeazed some paste into, them pinched the dough back around the paste. I only made four, due to their lack of popularity the night before. These were better, though I wouldn't say the girls will be asking to make it again!

While at the Asian grocery, I came across packaged Sweet Rice Cakes. The ingredients listed (with no additives which was nice) were the same as what is used for Tang Yuan. The only difference with these is they are rolled in sesame seeds, and are not served in sweet soup.
Oh, and, the girls actually enjoyed eating these, and asked for seconds.

You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:

You can find more school aged activities at the following linkups:


  1. They look so yummy...in both forms. I wonder if we could get those ingredients here...? Thanks so much for linking up!

  2. I initially found the glutinous rice flour at an asian grocery store, but then came across some at our regular grocery store, which was quite surprising.


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