Glutinous Rice Flour
Red Bean Paste
My daughter loves making these lovely natural food. There is something about enjoying and eating something you've made for yourself that is very rewarding. The old adage about enjoying the fruits of your labor is very true for kids.
At Dong Zhi, a Chinese Festival, my mother used to get glutinous rice flour from the market and all the children will enjoy the process of rolling your own dough and boiling them. Its a fun activity and we used to make special shapes and we can identify the ones we made. There are many ways of making Tang Yuen, the supermarket sells ready made ones. But nothing beats the yummy texture of handmade Tang Yuan, and the satisfaction of mastering new techniques, new ideas.
I have found that my kids absolutely love colors. To dye the glutinous rice flour, the easy way out is to use food coloring, which are available in supermarkets. However, after watching the very popular drama series in Singapore, called Little Nyonya, I became interested in Nyonya food. The traditional Nyonyas do not use dyes in their kuehs, they extract natural colors from vegetables or flowers.
So to make this brilliantly colored Tang Yuan, we used purple and orange sweet potatoes. The best sweet potatoes come from Japan, Okinawa. The color is absolutely bright and nothing beats the soft velvety texture of these beauties. Bake this by itself and try it! Its natural sweetness and goodness simply speaks for itself!
After steaming it, skin on, simply mash it up with a fork and add glutinous rice flour like so:
After that we used ready made red bean paste and roll them into round balls.
Wrapping the red bean with the sweet potato dough is an art itself. My daughter and I laugh at ourselves for creating bigger and bigger ones, just to cover the red bean without the skin breaking. Experimentation with the texture of the dough is an interesting process. My daughter has a feel of the dough. And now she advises me whether the dough is too soft or needs more glutinous rice flour.
A variation of it is to use the mashed up natural sweet potato as a substitute for the red bean paste.
Using Pandan leaves to boil the syrup with the Tang Yuan is the last step. Although Pandan essence can be found easily in many supermarkets, nothing beats the real thing. Once the little colorful balls are floating, they are cooked. The fragrance of the Pandan leaves is the secret to the making of many desserts.
My daughter ate as many as 15 of those she made. Usually she is not a big eater. It goes to show that for picker eaters, participation in making of the food itself is a good tactic for whetting children's appetites!