Sunday, 21 February 2010

Black Sesame Dessert Dumplings

Chinese New Year goes on for a good two weeks and since I mentioned in a previous post that dumplings symbolise wealth and prosperity due to their similarity to gold ingots, I thought it best I make some. These black sesame dumplings in ginger and sugar syrup are also known as 'tong yuen' in Cantonese. You can get these dumplings in all sorts of colours, but also with different fillings - some with a little lump of palm sugar, others with peanut paste. Red bean or black sesame were my favourite, and you can also get them not filled at all.

They are very different to any European dessert; nestled in the syrup, they are usually served hot. Ginger is the most common flavouring of the syrup that I've come across, but sometimes pandan leaves are used too. The glutinous rice flour that the balls are made from create a gluey, slightly bouncy texture to give way to the smooth, nutty sesame paste within. It's deceptively rich.

As I set about making these, I wished desperately for a food processor. The toasted sesame seeds are ground to a fine powder which was hard work and time consuming in a pestle and mortar. Next, the dough with which to make the balls was frustratingly fragile - it split, stuck and cracked all over the place. In short, these were a right ball-ache to make. I'm buying them frozen from the Chinese supermarket from now on. They still tasted great though, and if you have the patience, give it a try.

Black Sesame Tong Yuen

Makes 16 - 18 dumplings

230gr glutinous rice flour
180ml boiling water

50gr black sesame seeds
50gr sugar
40gr lard (yes, lard. It makes the filling silky smooth. If you're too scared, use butter)

Per serving -
300ml water
3 slices of ginger
A sprinkling of dried crysanthemum flowers
1.5 tbsp white sugar (to taste)

Toast the black sesame seeds in a pan until fragrant. Leave to cool and grind to a fine powder. Melt the lard or the butter in a pan and then add the sugar until it's melted. Add the black sesame powder and mix to form a smooth paste. Add more butter / lard if it's looking a bit dry. Put it in a bowl and leave to cool and place in the fridge.

Set the water on to simmer with the ginger and sugar - simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Mix the water with the flour bit by bit until it forms a smooth dough and leave to cool. Make into 16 balls and flour your work surface. Flatten the balls out and place a little black sesame mixture in the middle, folding it up so that it's sealed. Roll around your palm VERY carefully (this was the point at which my first one completely fell apart) and place on a floured plate. To cook, place the dumplings in a separate pot of boiling water. Once they float to the surface, they are cooked. To serve, place in a bowl and pour the sweet ginger broth over the dumplings and garnish with some dried crysanthemum.


Helen said...

Oh God is this what I am in for with my mochi which I STILL haven't made? Need to get that microwave on payday. They do look yummers though, even if they were a ball ache to make.

Sunflower said...

Nice one Lizzie. I always use cold water to mix the dough, much easier to handle.

maninas said...

They're gorgeous! I love glutinous rice balls!
I only had them with the plain syrup, or soup as my Chinese housemates called it, but will try ginger next time.

Dean said...

Oooh, that looks yummy, I love black sesame. Might just have to make it some time!

Mr Noodles said...

I've not had these for well, too long. My gran (a-po) used to make them filled with a lump of palm sugar. She also used to make the deep fried sesame balls (zeen dui) also made out of glutinous flour with sesame seeds studded on the outside. Like tong yuen, they had a variety of fillings although I remember my gran using lotus seed paste. She'd also make shapes out of the dough and deep fry those too.

Sandra said...

Stop it, you're making me drool! Seriously, they look so 'lish. During my recent trip to HK, I ate Sesame tzeen dui balls almost everyday...sigh

ginandcrumpets said...

You convinced me of the ways of Chinese New Year and these look delicious. So pretty in their broth.

gastrogeek said...

ooh these look delectable! I've never come across them before, ginger and crysanthemum flowers sound like a beautiful combo.

catty said...

you make some amazing things Lizzie. I'm always impressed. I love these but wouldn't even want to START thinking about how to make them! Grocery store it is :)

Ollie said...

Wow, these look fantastic. Don't think I've ever tasted chrysanthemum flowers.

mathildescuisine said...

What a creative recipe! Dumplings are so versatile and I guess that what makes them so popular. Well done

Fillyerboots said...

Why go to Hong Kong when we've got you?

Lizzie said...

Helen - The mochi dough is cooked so I imagine it'll be easier... I hope so, for your sake!

Sunflower - I actually used cold water, but wrote hot as most other people did. Hmm.

Maninas - Thanks! I call it soup too...

Dean - Do give it a go!

Mr Noodles - I wonder where I could get lotus paste from? I do love those sesame balls.

Sandra - thanks! Sesame is such a great dessert flavour.

Gin & Crumpets - glad to have a convert. Though you'd have to make 'em with butter for no-meat-Lent-madness.

Catty - thanks :) I like a challenge.

Ollie - Thanks! Crysanthemum makes a very soothing tea, I particularly like it cold and sweetened.

Mathilde - thanks!

Fillyerboots - it was HARD WORK, Pops. And it's cold in England :(

Intern said...

These look yum! Is the coating the same thing you'd use for steamed vegetable buns?

Fig and Cherry said...

These look great Lizzie! I love the colour contrast.

The Grubworm said...

Gosh - these do look like a challenge. At first I thought they looked deceptively easy. deceptive is right - rolling them into balls sounds like a devillishly difficult job. I am very tempted by your recipe to give them a go though...

Oscar said...

so just to check, i simmer the water and add the flour and mix? seems quite simple!

Lizzie said...

Oscar - not quite - the simmering water is for the sweet broth the dumplings sit in. For the dumplings themself, mix the 180ml of water with the flour until it forms into a dough and leave to cool. I'd suggest adding it bit by bit (I'll amend the post).

Oscar said...

thanks lizzie, how do you know how to makes these? i only get them in the frezer isle at wing yip!
so its cold water and flour added? the boiling is for the "broth"

Lizzie said...

Oscar - you have two sets of boiling water. One set is to mix with the flour (though you could use cold) - one set is simmering to make the broth. I found out how to make them by googling 'how to make tong yuen'.

The London Foodie said...

Wow, incredibly elegant dessert, I had similar dumplings at Phoenix Palace but not in syrup - the ginger and chrysanthemum syrup sounds amazing. I will try this at one of our Cooking Club evenings, thanks.

Kavey said...

I love the hot sesame paste balls I've had at Gerrard's Corner (I know most people don't rate it's dim sum but I enjoy it). The sesame paste is dark black and slightly liquidy and temperature hot). Are these that kind of thing? They look fabulous!

gil said...

Hi Lizzie,
Cool blog and recipe.
I'm pretty sure i can't get any dried crysanthemum flowers in my country.
How bad will it be to not use them at all?
I have some rose leaves or some orange blossom leaves, do you think they can replace them?