Tang yuan soup with savoury twist

TANG yuan is traditionally served during the Winter Solstice Festival and is also an important dish for other occasions such as weddings, birthdays and festivals.

Typically served as a sweet dessert in ginger syrup, it can also be enjoyed as a savoury dish, particularly in a soup during Chinese New Year festivities.

The term “tang yuan” directly translates as “round soup”, while its alternate name “yuan xiao”, means “round night”.

In China, “yuan xiao jie” signifies the first full moon of the year, akin to what Malaysians call Chap Goh Meh.

Hence tang yuan is ingrained in Chinese New Year food traditions.

Soup starts with ginger, garlic, dried prawn, mushroom, daikon and carrot before (right) adding the chicken and prawn broth and bringing to a boil.Soup starts with ginger, garlic, dried prawn, mushroom, daikon and carrot before (right) adding the chicken and prawn broth and bringing to a boil.

This recipe hails from the Hakka tradition and shares similarities with the renowned dish of abacus seeds made with taro – another Lunar New Year delicacy. Mushrooms play a prominent role in flavouring, while dried shrimp add a distinctive aroma to the soup and you may even include dried scallops for a more luxurious touch.

To infuse flavour into the rice balls, a robust chicken and prawn broth is essential, so I’ve unabashedly added chicken stock granules into the soup.

But you may omit this seasoning if you prefer to prepare a natural stock for it.

After cooking, it is crucial to plunge the rice balls into iced water to constrict the starches.

Adding the chicken and prawn broth and bringing to a boil.Adding the chicken and prawn broth and bringing to a boil.

Leave them in the water to prevent them from sticking together and they can then be chilled in a refrigerator.

When the soup is ready, add the rice balls just before serving to ensure they remain firm rather than becoming overly soft.

Savoury tang yuan soup


150g glutinous rice flour

150ml boiling water


2 caps shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water, then sliced

2 tbsp cooking oil

15g fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

10g dried shrimp

150g cremini mushrooms, quartered

200g daikon, cut into thick sticks

50g carrot, cut into florets

150g napa cabbage, cut into thick sticks

250g large prawns

1 litre chicken and prawn broth

1 tsp chicken stock granules

½ tsp salt to taste


200g boneless chicken, sliced

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp white pepper

½ tsp cooking oil

½ tsp sesame oil


Place glutinous rice flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre of the flour.

When soup is ready, add rice balls.When soup is ready, add rice balls.

Pour boiling water into the well, while stirring with a pair of chopsticks.

When cool enough to handle, knead for about 15 minutes to develop the gluten.

Then roll into a long sausage shape and cut into thumb-sized portions.

Roll each portion into a ball and set aside for about one hour to rest.

In a bowl, marinate sliced chicken for about 20 minutes.

In a pot of boiling water, drop in the rolled glutinous balls to boil until they float.

Remove from the pot and immediately plunge into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking and to constrict the starches.

Set aside to chill in the iced water until ready to serve.

For the soup, begin by tempering ginger and garlic in oil until wilted, then add dried shrimp and toss until fragrant.

Then add the mushrooms and toss until lightly seared.

Add daikon and carrots and toss until wilted, add broth and bring to a boil.

Add napa cabbage and scatter the marinated chicken all over the soup.

Chicken, cut into slices and marinate.Chicken, cut into slices and marinate.

Cover with a lid and simmer for about two minutes.

Add the prawns and cover again to steam in the soup for another two minutes.

Drain the rice balls and add to the soup, then turn off the heat to prevent the rice balls from softening.

Serve immediately with a garnish of spring onion and coriander.

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retro recipe , tang yuan , soup


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