This Savory Tang Yuan Soup features hand-rolled, chewy glutinous rice flour dumplings in a warming broth filled with cabbage, mushrooms, fish cakes, and Chinese sausage.
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What is tang yuan?
Tang yuan (tong yuen in Cantonese) refers to Chinese round glutinous rice ball dumplings.
They are made from glutinous rice flour and water, which give the balls a chewy texture, similar to Japanese mochi or dango.
Sweetened tang yuan is typically served as a dessert in a ginger syrup, whereas savory tang yuan is served in a broth.
Tang yuan is traditionally served during Dong zhi, or Winter Solstice festival, a time for family reunion.
What is Dong zhi?
Dong zhi is the celebration of the arrival of the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year.
It symbolizes the start of longer days to come, and the victory of light over darkness.
Why this recipe works
This recipe for Savory Tang Yuan Soup is:
Shellfish-free: traditional recipes call for dried shrimp, which imparts a deep, savory umami flavor, but this one omits the shrimp and builds flavor with the Chinese lap cheong sausages.
Easy to prepare: though the list of ingredients may look intimidating, it is actually straightforward to make.
Delicious and warming: the soup is cozy, full of savory flavors, and is warming on a cold winter's night.
Ingredients you'll need
Tang yuan (glutinous rice balls):
- glutinous rice flour: is different than rice flour; gives a chewy texture to the tang yuan
- boiling hot water: the hot water gelatinizes the rice flour starches and makes it softer and pliable
- room temperature water: balances out the hot water so its not too hot to handle the dough
- vegetable oil: for sautéing the aromatics
- shallot: minced; if you don't have shallot, you can use a small white onion
- garlic: minced
- Chinese sausage (lap cheong): sliced; is a Chinese sausage that is air-dried and flavored with rose wine and spices
- fish cakes: sliced
- Chinese mushrooms: soaked and sliced (reserve mushroom soaking liquid for soup)
- daikon: sliced; also known as Chinese turnip, used in lo bak go/daikon cake
- Napa cabbage: chopped; also known as Chinese cabbage; adds a sweet flavor the soup
- fish balls: optional; are also round and similar in appearance to the tang yuan
- chicken broth: you can also use vegetable broth or water
- light soy sauce: for savory flavor
- white pepper: or black pepper
- sesame oil: toasted; just at the end for aroma
You can find these ingredients at Asian supermarkets.
How to make it
Make the tang yuan
In a bowl, add in glutinous rice flour and make a well in the center.
Add hot water to the center of the well and use a pair of chopsticks to mix with the glutinous rice flour.
Pour in cold water 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass that is not dry, and not too tacky.
If it is too dry, add in a dribble of water until the dough can be formed.
If too wet, add a little bit more glutinous rice flour.
Divide the dough into 10g pieces, and roll into a small ball.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Make the soup
In a large pot heated over medium-high heat, add in 2 teaspoon of vegetable oil, minced shallot and garlic.
Sauté until shallot and garlic are fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
Add in the Chinese sausage and fish cakes, and continue stir-frying, another 2 minutes.
Add in the Chinese mushrooms and daikon, and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.
Next, add in Napa cabbage, fish balls, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and chicken broth.
Bring the soup to a boil.
Add in the tang yuan, soy sauce and give everything a stir.
Cover with a lid and let the soup come up to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer.
Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the tang yuan float to the top.
Stir in white pepper and sesame oil.
Check the seasoning and make any necessary adjustments.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve hot.
How to serve
Serve the tang yuan rice dumplings along with the soup.
The glutinous rice dumplings act as the carbohydrate for this meal.
How to store & reheat
You can make and store uncooked tang yuan ahead of time and place into the freezer in a single layer until just frozen.
Once frozen, you can transfer the glutinous rice balls into a freezer bag and pop them into the soup to cook, near the end of the cooking time.
Heat until the tang yuan float to the top.
Store the cooled soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To reheat, pour the soup contents into a large pot and reheat over the stove until simmering, adding additional water if needed.
Other additions & substitutions
You can also use dashi (kelp/seaweed broth), anchovy, or mushroom broth as the base of the soup, or make the soup using pork bones.
Feel free to add small dried shrimp to the soup if you have no shellfish allergies.
You can add dark leafy greens to bulk up the soup.
Expert tips on making tang yuan
Be sure to use glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour) and not rice flour to make the glutinous rice balls. Rice flour will not produce a chewy texture.
If you can't find Thai glutinous rice flour, you can use mochiko flour, which is made with short grain white rice flour.
Glutinous rice balls (tang yuan) will expand as it it sits in the broth -- this is normal.
You can make the glutinous rice balls larger or smaller to your preference.
Depending on the humidity, you may or may not require all the room temperature water for the glutinous rice ball dough. It's best to add in a little water at a time, and squeeze the dough to feel it come together.
Feel free to color the dough with festive colors such as pink or green. You can use a gel food color, or try adding matcha powder for green, and pitaya/dragon fruit powder for pink.
Other Chinese recipes you may like
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Let me know if you try out this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Savory Tang Yuan Soup
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 120 g glutinous rice flour
- 70 ml boiling hot water
- 40 ml room temperature water
- 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Chinese sausage sliced
- 4 fish cakes sliced
- 4 Chinese mushrooms soaked and sliced (reserve mushroom soaking liquid for soup)
- 200 g daikon sliced
- 200 g Napa cabbage chopped
- 6 fish balls
- reserved mushroom soaking liquid
- 3 C chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce or to taste
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Make the tang yuan:
- In a bowl, add in glutinous rice flour and make a well in the center.
- Add hot water to the center of the well and use a pair of chopsticks to mix with the glutinous rice flour.
- Pour in cold water 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass that is not dry or flaky, and not too tacky or too moist.
- Note: If it is too dry, add in a dribble of water until the dough can be formed. If too wet, add a little bit more glutinous rice flour. You may or may not require all the room temperature water.
- Divide the dough into ~10g pieces, and roll into a small ball.
- Repeat with the remainder of the dough.
Make the soup:
- In a large pot heated over medium-high heat, add in 2 teaspoon of vegetable oil, minced shallot and garlic.
- Sauté until shallot and garlic are fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the Chinese sausage and fish cakes, and continue stir-frying, another 2 minutes.
- Add in the Chinese mushrooms and daikon, and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Next, add in Napa cabbage, fish balls, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and chicken broth.
- Bring the soup to a boil.
- Add in the tang yuan, soy sauce and give everything a stir.
- Cover with a lid and let the soup come up to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer.
- Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the tang yuan float to the top.
- Stir in white pepper and sesame oil.
- Check the seasoning and make any necessary adjustments.
- Ladle soup into bowls and serve hot.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.