Walnut Dumplings

It's officially the last day of Chinese New Year, and in my family that usually means Tang Yuan - a glutinous rice flour dumpling usually filled with a sweet black sesame paste. This is something I definitely miss. My two favourite Cantonese style desserts are Tang Yuan and Walnut Cream, which is just a bowl of hot walnut 'soup'. I'm not really selling it, but trust me.

Other than cooking the things you saw on this blog, I didn't really do much for Chinese New Year this time around. But standing by the stove, rolling balls of rice dough and boiling ginger syrup, almost made me feel like the queen of CNY. At home, we never eat homemade Tang Yuan. It's easy to buy and restaurants make it so well, so we don't really need to. But I've done it!

I couldn't get hold of black sesame seeds in time, and I had a bag of walnuts hanging about. Brainwave! My two favourite Chinese desserts - as the Spice Girls song goes, 'two become one'. This recipe is adapted from two recipes by Bee of RasaMalaysia which, by the way, is an awesome site if you're looking for Chinese, Malaysian or Singaporean food.

Hopefully, next Chinese New Year, I'll be writing from Singapore, where I'll be able to eat all the food I missed so much, like Abacus Seeds - squidgy, sticky yam balls fried with pork, mushrooms and dried shrimp. MNGHHHhfbbhhh... that's a story for another time. I love sticky food, and these dumplings don't disappoint. The skin is sticky and chewy, and the hot molten filling is sweet, salty, creamy. It's served in a ginger syrup, which I like to be really fiery. But if ginger isn't your thing, you can just serve the dumplings in a simple syrup, made with water and sugar.

Walnut Dumplings
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia - Serves 4

225g glutinous rice flour
190ml room temperature water

100g walnuts
100g butter, slightly softened and diced into small cubes
2 tablespoons icing sugar
4 tablespoons caster sugar

Two big pieces of ginger, peeled and sliced thickly
5 cups water
100g rock sugar or white sugar
Optional: one or two pandan leaves, tied into a knot

First, start your filling. In a food processor, blend the walnuts with the icing sugar and caster sugar until they are the consistency of damp sand. Add the butter and blend, stopping once the mixture comes together in a ball. Scrape into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge while you get on with the other things.

To make the ginger syrup, combine the 5 cups of water with the ginger slices and sugar, and the pandan leaves if using. Bring to the boil, and then turn down to simmer. Let it reduce by one-fifth and then set aside.

Now, make the dough by combining the glutinous rice flour and water in a big bowl and mixing with your hands until it all comes together and stops sticking to your hands. Set aside.

Get your filling and your dough, and place them next to each other. Place a sheet of clingfilm onto an empty plate and have it ready. Now, pluck off a small ball of your dough (about 5cm in diameter) and roll it between your hands to form a ball.

Hold the ball of dough in the centre of your palm. Using the thumb of your other hand, press the dough down into a flat circle. Scoop up a bit of your filling (don't use too much or the balls will burst - this may take some trial and error), and place it in the centre of the dough circle.

Bring the edges of the circle up around the filling and seal them by pinching gently. Roll the filled dough into a ball shape and place on the clingfilm-lined plate.

Once you have shaped your desired number of dumplings, bring a big pot of water to the boil. Reheat your ginger syrup and prepare your serving bowls. These cook quickly and should be eaten fast. Depending on the size of your pot, drop some dumplings into the boiling water. Don't overcrowd them.

Let them boil, but watch them. After a few minutes, they will float to the surface. If the rice flour skin is quite thick on your dumplings, let them boil at the top of the water for a minute or so and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. If you are skilled enough to have made thin-skinned dumplings, retrieve them once they are floating.

Serve in bowls with the ginger syrup.

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