Recipe of the Month: Tong Yuen

Recipe of the Month: Tong Yuen

I have to admit, one of my favorite things about Chinese New Year is the food. Like many Chinese holidays, CNY is a time filled with traditions— and one of those traditions is to stuff yourself with auspicious foods in hopes of having good luck and fortune in the coming year.

With that being said, I’m excited to share a recipe of one of my favorite auspicious desserts– tong yuen (湯圓).

These auspicious dumplings are served in a ginger soup and are shared amongst family members. The name is a homophone for “union”, and their round shape also symbolizes togetherness.

See? What a nice thing for families to eat together.

And now I’m sharing the recipe so that you can try them at home with your own family!



Tong Yuen Dumplings:
— 8 oz. glutinous rice flour
— 1/2 cup water
— 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
— 1/2 stick butter

Ginger Soup:
— 5 cups water
— 1 cup sugar (all white or 1/2 white and 1/2 brown)
— 4 oz. ginger
— 1/2 teaspoon sweet osmanthus (optional)
— 2 screwpine leaves (optional)



Lightly toast the black sesame seeds on medium stove settings. Once the seeds become aromatic or start popping, remove them from the heat.

Use a food processor to grind the seeds into a fine consistency. If you don’t have a food processor a coffee grinder works great or you can do it by hand!

Once finely ground, mix the seeds, sugar and butter together in a pan over light heat. Continue stirring until thoroughly mixed. Then set the filling aside by chilling it in the fridge — this is important for getting it to set!

Prepare the ginger soup, peel and pound the ginger. Next, boil the ginger and water for 10-15 minutes. Then, add the sugar and boil for an additional 5-10 minutes.

While the soup is boiling, begin to prepare the dumpling wrapper. In a big bowl, mix the glutinous rice flour with water until it creates a dough-like texture. Add more flour as needed.

To create the dumpling, grab a piece of dough and form a ball. Flatten it in your hand before adding a small amount of black sesame filling to the center. Then, pinch all edges of the wrapper together, and roll it back into a ball. Place the dumplings on a plate with a small amount of extra flour to keep them from sticking.

Once all dumplings have been made, heat a pot of boiling water. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water. As soon as they float to the top, transfer them into the ginger soup.

Serve immediately and enjoy. Just be sure to serve the dumplings in even numbers!



This recipe is surprisingly easy to make at home and we were able to find all of the ingredients at our local Walmart and Mariano’s. The hardest part is actually forming the dumplings, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake! Just make sure not to make the wrapper too thin otherwise it’ll break when you go to form it into a ball.

If you don’t like black sesame, go ahead and experiment with other fillings. You can go sweet or savory, and other popular ingredients to use are peanuts, red bean, or even fruit preserves.

Happy Chinese New Year!



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  1. March 5, 2015 / 11:54 am

    This is something I would for sure eat. The dumplings are a bit similar to butter mochi! I have the stuff to make this dish in my pantry. I eat and cook a ton of Eastern food. :)

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 12:52 pm

      Butter mochi? What’s that? :D
      Let me know if you make them! Would love to hear how they turned out.

  2. March 3, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    And a happy and auspicious new year to you. I think this soup sounds lovely but there are a lot of ingredients I’ve never heard of … where does one buy screwpine exactly. Love dropping by.

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 11:04 am

      We were to get everything from our normal grocery store here in Chicago! :)

  3. March 3, 2015 / 8:19 pm

    I love ginger in my smoothies, and the benefits are priceless. I have never had or heard of this soup before but however I love learning of recipes from different cultures and giving them a try. We are a family that loves to test out a variety of foods. Thanks for sharing.

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 11:10 am

      Ginger has so many good benefits indeed! You should give this dessert a try :)

  4. March 3, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    I would have never thought that the picture of this dish was a dessert. I like ginger as a flavor, so the soup base interests me. What is the significance of serving the dumplings in even numbers – is it bad luck not to?

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 11:13 am

      Yup! Even numbers are always good luck since they can be split equally. 8 is especially lucky!

  5. Pauline C.
    March 2, 2015 / 11:49 pm

    These all look delicious and yummy!!! I love Asian cooking. My friend is Asian and when her mom invites me for dinner, I can’t help but look forward to all the wonderful dishes that will be laid out!

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 1:08 pm

      I agree, there are lots of yummy things to try in Asian cuisine!

  6. March 2, 2015 / 11:17 pm

    This recipe of Tong Yuen looks more like something my dad would eat. I love dumplings, but I’m not really a fan of ginger, its just too strong for me. The kids are picky when it comes to things like this, but I would at least try it one time with them sometime.

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 1:53 pm

      You wouldn’t have to use ginger (or just use really small amounts). The dumplings could be served in just sugar water instead ;)

  7. March 2, 2015 / 8:37 pm

    This is a really fun post – I love being introduced to culturally diverse foods! I would definitely want to try this – it looks delicious! Your photos are beautiful! :)

    • Beth Williams
      March 6, 2015 / 1:54 pm

      Thanks Breanna! You should try making it :)

  8. March 2, 2015 / 7:37 pm

    I have never heard of this before but I love learning about new recipes. I am not sure if I would try it or not but it is very interesting. I have tried foods from other cultures and some we do make frequently in my home.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:09 am

      That’s great that you make them at home. Well, if you’re ever looking for a simple dessert, you should give this a try!

  9. March 2, 2015 / 7:25 pm

    Oh wow, these look and sound just so incredibly unique and delicious. I would LOVE to try these! I definitely want to try to make them. I’m not the best cook, but I adore dumplings. I really love that there is no meat in these.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:08 am

      Yes, no meat! These are sweet dumplings for dessert. :)

  10. March 2, 2015 / 2:02 pm

    Never had such a soup before but sounds really lovely and any food that can be eaten together with family and friends is great food.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:08 am

      Indeed! I hope you get to try this dessert someday.

  11. March 2, 2015 / 9:51 am

    That soup is perfect for the chilly/snowy weather we’ve been having!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:07 am

      Anything warm, right? Ginger is also considered a “hot food” in China. So even though this dessert isn’t hot, it’ll still warm your insides.

  12. March 1, 2015 / 10:12 am

    Man I love ginger. This looks gorgeous. It was difficult travelling in Asia with Craig who doesn’t like fish sauce or coconut. Don’t think we’d complain at any of this though.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:06 am

      I can imagine… going to Asia and avoiding any sort of seafood is like mission impossible. Luckily, this has none of that so he can enjoy it!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:05 am

      Enjoy your tong yuen!

  13. Andrea
    March 1, 2015 / 7:20 am

    I love challenging my taste buds and cooking skills with new culinary ideas! I will have to try this!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:05 am

      If you do, take some photos and send them my way! I’d love to see how it turned out.

  14. March 1, 2015 / 5:59 am

    My favourite thing about Chinese New Year is also the food. Was lucky to spend last Chinese New Year in Malaysia where its a big celebration. And thank you for the reciepe!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:04 am

      I haven’t been to Malaysia for CNY yet! I’ll bet it’s a ton of fun though!

  15. March 1, 2015 / 4:58 am

    At first glance I thought they were some kind of eggs :D But your recipe sounds delicious and I’ll definitely try it out!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:03 am

      They’re dumplings! And dessert dumplings at that. Super delicious and healthy!

  16. March 1, 2015 / 4:40 am

    I looove Chinese food – and this looks absolutely delicious. As an added bonus ginger is so good for you it makes this recipe even better.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:02 am

      It is! It’ll make you live forever ;)

  17. March 1, 2015 / 1:36 am

    I absoutely love this dish!! And Chinese New Year is my favourite part of the New Year too because everything here in Beijing looks so pretty!

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:02 am

      I can imagine!! I haven’t been to Beijing yet, but I hope to make it there soon!

  18. February 28, 2015 / 11:39 pm

    I have always wondered about Chinese cooking. Always wanted to learn a couple recipes. I guess this is a good one to start with. I going to get the ingredients and give it a go. BTW I love ginger. I use it in almost everything.

    • Beth Williams
      March 5, 2015 / 11:01 am

      If you love ginger, you’ll love this dessert! Plus, ginger is super healthy for you.