Chinese New Year is symbolized by the savory Tang Yuan, which are filled buns typically eaten with both sweet and savory ingredients. Sweet versions of these glutinous rice dumplings are more common than their savory counterparts; they are typically filled with sweet peanut paste, red bean paste, or sesame paste and served in hot water or a light sweet soup.
But a Savory Tang Yuan filled with pork is a considerably less common type. The stuffing is a salted radish, pork, dried shrimp, and mushroom mixture that was inspired by Hakka flavors.
When eaten during the Yuan Xiao Festival (or yuan xiao Jie), Tang Yuan is commonly referred to as yuan xiao. Even though the main events occur on the eve and day of Chinese New Year, the celebrations continue throughout the days that follow. These bite-sized treats are a staple of the Lantern Festival and represent the coming together of friends and family.
On the 15th day of the lunar new year’s first month, people worldwide celebrate the Lantern Festival. The end of Lunar New Year festivities is traditionally marked by the appearance of the first full moon of the year. This festival is celebrated by eating tons of sweet and savory tang yuan and yuan xiao, as well as seeing lion dances and hanging all sorts of lanterns.
Enjoy some of these savory Tang Yuan on the occasion of the Lantern Festival. They can be made with little effort and stored in the freezer for later use. Rally your loved ones to assist in the production of a large quantity.
For the Filling:
- 86g of finely chopped salted preserved radish
- 18g of dried Shiitake mushrooms
- 15g of dried shrimp
- 5 ounces of chopped ground pork butt
- 1 finely chopped scallion
- 1 cup of Shiitake mushroom soaking water
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
For the Dough:
- 3½ cups of glutinous rice flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1½ cups of warm water
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- Put together the filling first. For 30 minutes, let dried shiitake mushrooms soak in a dish of boiling water. Keep them completely buried by placing a small plate on top. Remove the mushroom caps and throw away the stems. Put the mushrooms back in the water if they still look dry on the inside, keeping in mind that mushrooms with a higher dry content will take longer to rehydrate. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces and set them aside, saving the soaking liquid.
- If you’re using dried shrimp, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes as well. You should wash them thoroughly and drain the water before you slice them. To prepare the salted preserved radish for chopping, simply run it under cold water and pat it dry.
- Over moderate heat, warm 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok. Stir in the dried shrimp and heat until they release their aroma (about a minute). The ground pork should be added next and stir-fried for 30 seconds or until no longer pink.
- Put in the sliced Shiitake mushrooms, salted preserved radish, and Shaoxing wine. Add another 30 seconds of stir-frying time. Add 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid, the sesame oil, salt, sugar, white pepper, oyster sauce, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallion.
- Cook at a simmer for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until about half, the liquid has evaporated. Then, add the cornstarch slurry and mix well. To achieve the desired thickness, the mixture should be cooked until all liquid has evaporated. Rest, cool, and chill in the fridge for 1/2 to 1 hour.
- Prepare the dough while the filling cools. In a large bowl, combine 3 and a half cups of glutinous rice flour with half a teaspoon of salt. With chopsticks or a rubber spatula, stir in 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix until a dough forms. Knead it until it’s smooth using your hands. Add additional glutinous rice flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough can be rolled into a smooth ball without sticking to your hands.
- Next, roll three 1-inch balls out of the dough using a pinching motion. For about 7 minutes in a small pot of boiling water, or until they float. Now incorporate them into the raw dough by kneading it for several minutes. After doing this, I was a little concerned the dough wouldn’t come together, but after a few minutes of kneading, it was fine.
- Now, using a digital kitchen scale, cut the dough into 24 even pieces, each weighing about 32 grams. Cover them with a clean, moist kitchen towel to keep them from drying out while you put together your Savory Tang Yuan.
- To re-distribute the ingredients, remove the filling from the fridge and whisk it. There shouldn’t be any wetness to the filling, and it should be mostly solid.
- Make flat, circular discs out of the dough balls using your fingertips. Spread the filling in the disc’s center using roughly 1 tablespoon (15 g). To avoid air bubbles, gently compact the contents with the spoon. To seal the tang yuan, fold over the dough’s edges and press them lightly into the filling to seal. A small scrap of dough, some glutinous rice flour, and a drop or two of water will do the trick if the dough cracks. For this purpose, always have a small bowl of both on hand.
- Next, form the tang yuan into a ball by rolling it gently between your palms. Place your completed tang yuan on a sheet of parchment paper coated with glutinous rice flour. Carry on until all the delicious tang yuan has been prepared. If you want to protect them, you’ll need another clean, damp kitchen towel. Keep going until all the tang yuan are put together.
- Cook at a simmer for 2–3 minutes, stirring often, or until roughly half the liquid has evaporated. The tang yuan should be dropped into the boiling water using a slotted spoon and constantly stirred to prevent sticking. If you want uniformly cooked tang yuan, don’t overcrowd your pot. Turn it down, so it just boils slowly.
- Stirring occasionally, cook the Savory Tang Yuan for 6-8 minutes or until they rise to the surface.
- Put some cooking liquid in bowls and serve the tang yuan on top. Spice it up to your liking with some scallions, cilantro, and/or sesame oil.