As the Lunar New Year celebrations come to a close this weekend, there’s one more culinary tradition for you to enjoy. On the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, the Lantern Festival is the culmination of more than two weeks of festivities, family banquets, traditions and superstitions.
The Lantern Festival coincides with the first full moon of the new lunar year, and is marked by the lighting of colourful lanterns, explosions of fireworks, and lively lion and dragon dances. This year, the Lantern Festival falls on Saturday 11th February.
The signature dish of the Lantern Festival is the tangyuan, a dessert of chewy, glutinous rice balls served in a sweet syrup. Known as yuanxiao in the north, these plump little balls are said to resemble the full moon, and are also savoured during the Moon Festival celebrations in the second half of the year.
As their name sounds similar to the Chinese word for ‘union’, tangyuan are a popular choice for weddings and family reunions.
It’s not just the name that differs between northern and southern China – the fillings vary between the regions too. In the south, tangyuan come filled with black sesame, osmanthus flower, red bean paste, peanuts or citrus peel. In the north, you’ll find savoury versions packed with minced meat and vegetables, as well as subtly sweet dumplings of sesame, red beans and peanuts.
Modern variations include chocolate, strawberries, yoghurt, and even ice cream. The sweet soup can be flavoured with red beans, black sesame, ginger, sweet osmanthus flower or rock sugar.
For a final culinary flourish in the Lunar New Year calendar, follow these 10 simple steps for making your own sweet tangyuan at home.
Why not come up with your own tangyuan recipe for our Chinese New Year Cooking Contest? Cook, Snap & Win for your chance to win a trip for four to Thailand valued at up to $29,000!
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