December 22, 2006

Celebrating "Dong Zhi" @ home

The Winter Solstice Festival in English; Dong Zhi, is a Chinese tradition our Malaysian family take pretty seriously.
It's when the whole family comes together to spend an evening catching up, discussing family matters.....and to just spend time "re-bonding"~ Call it "Thanksgiving" if you must. We honour our ancestors at the altar with offerings..and do very basic prayers during the day. For my family and I; it's not really so much about religion, it's our Chinese culture and heritage more than anything.

Here's a detailed description of "Dong zhi":
Dong Zhi is the second most important festival of the Chinese calendar. Celebrated on the longest night of the year, Dong Zhi is the day when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The coming of winter is celebrated by families and is traditionally the time when farmers and fishermen gather food in preparation for the coming cold season. It is also a time for family reunions.
This celebration can be traced to the Chinese belief in yin and yang, which represent balance and harmony in life. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time, but it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang. For this reason, the Dong Zhi Festival is a time for optimism.
Our annual family reunion dinner's have always been home-cooked meals and "tong-yuen" desserts; but due to increasingly busy lifestyles and deteriorating health of the best chefs in the family; we had our dinner at a Chinese Restaurant. It didn't feel quite the same...*sad*... Mom and I decided to have our "tong-yuen" dessert homemade at least. Tong Yuen= Glutinous rice dumplings (filling= palm sugar) Served in a ginger syrup soup. It was fun spending the evening with mom rolling tong yuens for the family. Here's mom's secret recipe to silky smooth and delicious Tong yuen's.

3 cups glutinous rice flour
approx 1 cup(pandan liquid)
filling= tiny broken pieces of palm sugar (optional)
Pandan= Screwpine leaves. Make pandan liquid by boiling 2 cups water with 2 knotted pandan leaves and a 3 inch piece of rock sugar. Allow to cool overnight and knead for at least 8-10 minutes with glutinous rice flour to create a smooth dough. Divide and color dough accordingly. The dough dries up fast, cover unused dough with damp cloth while rolling tong yuens. Drop rolled tong yuens in small batches into boiling water. They are cooked when they begin floating on the water surface. Scoop out and briskly dunk into a bowl of cold water. Drain well and serve with ginger soup.
**Ginger soup made with = Water, rock sugar, pieces of old ginger root, knotted pandan leaves.

I had my dear friends Juli and Shian Yi over 2 days ago..and we had a fun afternoon playing with some dough too! Here's another modern variation of tong yuen's to make.
They should be eaten within the hour if possible! Haha..they dry up pretty quickly when they aren't served with soup.*Dough and cooking methods are similar to the recipe above.
(variation: substitute 1/2 of the dough liquid with coconut milk)
*Filling= 3/4 cup Crunchy peanut butter+1/4 cup icing sugar+ 2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts

Mix well and leave in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours. Shape into tiny balls and freeze to maintain shape.
Wrap with tong yuen dough and cook similarly. Dust fingers well when handling sticky dough.
Instead of the soup; Roll cooked tong yuens in crushed peanuts.


Jerry Ong said...

Yummy..... should ask my maid subscribe to this bloggie :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for what You are doing!Information, that I managed to find here
is extremely useful and essential for me!With the best regards!

Anonymous said...

those look so cute!

Anonymous said...

Wishing I was nowhere but there! I miss you girls like maddddd!

Anonymous said...

Yum! I wish I could make them!

Juji said...

just made some following your recipe (with tips from my mum along the way) and they were perfect!