We braved the subzero temperatures last Wednesday night to view the lunar eclipse. It was too cold to spend much time outside, but we managed to witness the beautiful red moon at its peak. This beautiful sight made me ponder the moon’s place in Chinese traditions and lore. The moon’s round shape is very appealing to the Chinese and variously symbolizes harmony, fulfillment and reunion. And the Yuanxiao (元宵節) festival, which marks the end of The Chinese New Year’s festivities and celebrates the first full moon of the new year, would be celebrated the very next day.
We celebrated Yuanxiao this year by hosting a small dinner. I was pleased the celebration was subdued, because I was still worn out from cooking the New Year’s Banquet. I cooked a simple meal, and served tangyuan (湯圓) at the end as is traditional for Yuanxiao celebration.
Tangyuan is a generic name for sweet dumplings made from glutinous rice flour (糯米粉). They are often stuffed with red bean paste, sesame paste, peanut paste and other sweet pastes, but can also be served as plain unstuffed small spheres. On this occasion I served sesame paste tangyuan in a peanut broth. Tangyuan can be purchased frozen in Chinatown markets and is a very convenient alternative to making at home.
Sweet Sesame Dumpling in Peanut Broth (花生芝麻湯圓)
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Slow cooking time: 35 minutes
- 1 package sesame paste stuffed tangyuan (often come in a 15 dumplings pack)
- 1/4 cup raw blanched peanuts (red seed coat removed)
- 5 cups water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Simmer peanuts, water and sugar in a pot on very low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the flozen tangyuan dumplings and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes. When the tangyuan dumplings appears translucent it is ready to serve. Do not overcook the tangyuan dumplings or cook ahead, they are prone to become soggy and limp.
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First, thanks for delivering this personally to my door after my kids nearly up-ended your grown-up dinner party. You are a forgiving soul.
Second, I get the whole moon/Chinese New Years metaphor and the tangyuan was a real surprise – I’ve never really eaten anything like it. The dish is quite lovely and sweet and the familiar taste of warm peanuts is comforting – I’d eat it again surely, but after the bean paste meringue, I’m a bit spoiled and nothing really is gonna be as good as that. Ever.
So, let me just say this without mincing words, THE BEAN PASTE MERINGUE DESERT ROCKS!!!!!! Not so subtle, but now you know where I stand…