Other than being Valentine’s Day, February 14 was the first day of Chinese New Year, 2010. During the 15 day celebration, people traditionally make and/or eat tong yuen (tang yuan), which are sweet glutinous dumplings that are filled with a sweet black sesame paste. They are boiled and served in hot water.
Black Sesame Dumplings Recipe (tong yuen/tang yuan)
adapted from Rasa Malaysia, makes 18 dumplings
1 cup glutinous rice flour (Note: this is not the same as plain rice flour)
1/2 to 3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup home rendered lard (recipe here) or shortening (preferred brand: Crisco) or salted butter
Lightly toast the black sesame seeds over medium fire until you smell the aroma of the black sesame seeds. Once the sesame seeds start popping, transfer them to a bowl and let them cool. Use a mini food processor to finely grind the black sesame seeds. Transfer the ground black sesame into a wok, add the sugar and lard or shortening or butter and stir well to form a thick paste. If it looks too dry, add more lard or shortening or butter. Transfer to a bowl and chill throughout in the fridge.
In a large bowl, mix the glutinous rice flour with water until it forms a smooth and slightly elastic paste that no longer sticks to your hands. You may need to adjust the flour and hot water content to achieve the right consistency. Divide it equally into 18 equal portions. Cover the dough with a slightly damp cloth. Working with one portion at a time, roll them into balls. Using your finger, make an indentation in the centre of the ball. Then use your fingers to make the indentation larger so your ball becomes a small round cup. Using chop sticks, fill the hole with black sesame paste. It helps if you roll 1/18th of the sesame paste into a small ball first. Bring the edges of the ball together to close the hole and seal the ball. Lightly roll it back into a ball shape using both palms, very gently. At this time, the dumplings can be frozen individually and then thrown together in a bag. Or, the fresh dumplings can be cooked and served.
To cook, drop the dumplings (freshly made or directly from the freezer) gently into a pot of boiling water. Once they float to the top, they are done.
Note: I usually take one out first as a tester, depending on how thick the glutinous wrapping is. If the filling is hot and fluid, then the rest of them are done.
Turn off the heat and serve the black sesame dumplings immediately in a bowl of hot water.