Baby Tang Yuan or Glutinous Rice Balls in Boozy Sweet Soup | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly of Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong

Baby Tang Yuan or Glutinous Rice Balls in Boozy Sweet Soup

Tang Yuan or Glutinous Rice Balls for Lantern Festival

Perhaps I should name this as Mock Fermented Glutinous Rice Wine with Rice Balls, a boozy dessert also known as 酒釀丸子 or 酒釀圓子 in Chinese. This is mock because I was using Japanese sake than the Chinese fermented wine.

I love glutinous rice wine but unlucky it was out of my stock. The replacement, sake, however has got me excited to tell you that it is also good for making an exquisite dessert. At the same time though, I must admit that this is not perfect. With the Japanese wine, you would not be able to enjoy the fluffy and sugary rice from the Chinese wine, but then this different recipe is lighter and maybe a more convenient alternative, in terms of availability.

Here, sake is available in most supermarkets; yet for the Chinese fermented glutinous rice wine, I doubt if I should risk my time shopping around except in established ones or in Shanghainess grocery stores. Happy thing is, Chinese fermented glutinous rice wine could easily be homemade, and hopefully I will be ready to take shots of it next time and share the recipe with you soon.

Lao Zao 醪糟/酒釀


Tang Yuan 湯圓 and Yuan Xiao 元宵
We are still in the first month of Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar called this lunar month Yuan (元) and in the older days people called night Xiao (宵). On the fifteenth night when the first full moon appears, the most auspicious tradition is to celebrate it with decorative lanterns. Thus the name Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Festival (元宵節).

Eating tang yuan has been a custom during the Festival because its round shape is a symbol of wholeness and completeness. That is why tang yuan 湯圓 is also known as yuan xiao 元宵. In this year of Rabbit, we shall be seeing the first full moon on February 17; remember to enjoy tang yuan whether for family reunion or simply for pleasure.

* I shall be packing up soon for a break in Malaysia, where hubby and I are going to explore their hawker foods again and also to spend the Yuan Xiao Festival there. I would read your comments from time to time, but do excuse me if I will be late in responding.

  • Ingredients for rice balls
  • 80g glutinous rice flour/sticky rice flour
  • 65g warm water
  • yields about 40 small rice balls
  • Ingredients for boozy, sweet soup
  • 1/2 tsp dried osmanthus
  • 40g rock sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp sake
  • 8 stoned dried red dates , optional
  • yields about 4 rice bowls of soup with rice balls

Why red dates
You may often see Chinese wearing in red and having decorations at home also in red. Red means luck to us; even with cooking, we have a habit to include some red ingredients, like red dates, in New Year dishes.

Tang Yuan or Glutinous Rice Balls for Lantern Festival


Add about 95% of warm water to the flour in a mixing bowl. Blend them together to form dough. If some of the flour is too dry to form into a mass, work with more water by half teaspoon. As the dough becomes soft, pliable and somewhat not sticky, turn it onto a clean and lightly floured board.

Roll the dough to form a cylinder of about 3/4 to 1 cm diameter. Cut it into equal lengths as its diameter. Roll into balls.

In a pan, add in rock sugar, red dates, dried osmanthus and 3 cups of water. Bring it to the boil. Stir until sugar dissolved over medium to high heat.

Use a large spoon, swirl the boiling soup in one direction. While the soup runs in a circular motion, gently drop in the glutinous rice ball one by one. As the soup is moving, the ball won’t stick to the bottom.

Stir occasionally. Cook till the rice balls float to top, about 3 minutes, which means they are done. Blend in sake; and stir in the beaten egg and swirl it like this to form a feather-like pattern, which we call it egg flowers. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Note for dried osmanthus
If you don’t want to chew the boiled osmathus (like tea dust) in your mouth, boil it water first and strain it away, then add sugar and red dates. Before boiling the dried osmanthus, remove any dirts or debris among them if you see any.

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  1. Tastes of Home (Jen)

    I love the classic 酒釀圓子 but sake is definitely like you said a more accesible alternative although I have not tried with sake yet. Your bowl of tang yuan looks exquisite and so comforting…looking forward to your recipe for homemade glutinous rice wine 😀

  2. tigerfish

    Thanks for your tip about straining away the osmanthus. 🙂

    Happy trip!

  3. TasteHongKong

    @Tastes of Home (Jen),
    Certainly, my pleasure to share with you soon.

    Thanks. Just finished packing up, and shall be in the airport in 1-2 hours.

  4. Mei Teng

    Tang yuen is one of my favourite desserts. But I prefer enjoying them in hot sweet ginger soup.

  5. penny aka jeroxie

    next time I make tang yuan, I will make sure I add some booze!

  6. noobcook

    I like the dash of osmanthus in your tang shui. Love this dessert very much. Happy Holiday!

  7. Juliana

    Wow, what a torture to look at the photos of the glutinous rice balls and not be able to reach…they look so yummie 🙂

  8. mumusings

    Lovely recipe! Sure to make me swoon… hahahaha….

  9. Amy @ cookbookmaniac

    I love your website! I love the recipes, photos and your stories. I would definately devour an entire bowl of this quite easily!

  10. mycookinghut

    I love tang yuang! It has been a long time since I last ate this!

  11. food-4tots

    What a great substitute! Love the fragrance aroma of dried osmanthus. Happy Holidays and have a foodful trip!!

  12. Maria @ Scandifoodie

    Gorgeous recipe! This would be such a perfect dish on a rainy day like today!

  13. carol547

    This has been my favorite site for authentic Chinese recipes. Your techniques remind me of my Mom’s. Thank you!

  14. Winnie Wong

    I love tang yuang. But I prefer enjoying them with sweet gula malaka soup.

  15. HL

    I hope you will share your recipe for the Chinese fermented glutinous rice wine. I would really like try a make my own and try it in this receipe.
    Love your blog.
    Thank you.

  16. TasteHongKong

    Yes, I do intend to share my recipe on glutinous rice wine. Hopefully I don’t need to keep you waiting for too long. Thanks for your kind words.

  17. MissC

    I’m so glad I found you blog, you’ve got some great recipes. And btw, if I didn’t read your About page, I would have never guessed English is your second language. You write really well!

  18. Kate

    Wow, I am going to try make this, though like to know if there could be other substitutes for the Chinese rice wine. I will be searching for your homemade rice wine recipe!

    Thanks for posting.

  19. TasteHongKong

    Excuse me, I have not yet posted any homemade rice wine here. In this recipe, I substitute sake for Chinese rice wine.

  20. Loch

    I love to try this recipe, do you a have recipe for the rice wine?


  21. TasteHongKong

    I haven’t made sticky rice wine for quite a while, so need to make sure I could re-create it nicely before sharing the recipe here. Just not sure when, excuse me!