Make, Jane, make!: Sweet Soup Dumplings (湯圓)


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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sweet Soup Dumplings (湯圓)

Mmmm... sweet soup dumplings. Chewy and warm and not too sweet. In our family we usually enjoy these around the winter solstice, but I know that a lot of families enjoy them during the new year and specifically to celebrate first full moon of Chinese New Year.

Usually, I make these every year with my father and sometimes my brothers if they are available. I have such fond memories of sitting around the dinner table with my family and making dumplings, pot stickers, spring rolls, etc. This year was extra special because it was the first time I made them with my family. 

Soup dumplings seemed like a good introduction to our food traditions because they are simple to prepare and don't contain raw meat. Could you just imagine a young child handling ground pork? I can already envision having to wash salmonella out of their hair... eww...

The secret to chewy dumplings with an easy to handle dough, according to my father, is using both boiling water and room temperature water. He claims that the boiling water cooks some of the flour and forms a sticky paste that helps to glue together the dough.

I don't know if his science is right...

... but I do know that the boiling water does make the dough much more soft and pliable.

It was so much fun teaching my oldest son the art of making dumplings... forming a disk that is thin at the edges and thicker in the centre (almost like a sunny side-up egg) or how to enclose the filling.

Anyway, here is my recipe if you're interested in trying these out at home.


Sweet Soup Dumplings with Red Bean (Yield: 125 dumplings)

800g glutinous rice flour
80g (scant 1/2 cup) sugar* 
400mL hot/boiling water
400mL water, room temperature
510g (1 can) red bean paste**

*this makes barely sweet dumpling dough. If you want the dough to be sweeter then add more sugar :)
**I had red bean paste on hand, you could also use lotus bean, taro, peanut, black sesame, etc.

  1. In  a large bowl, mix the rice flour and sugar. (Reserve some rice flour for dusting your hands).
  2. Make a small well in the rice flour and while gently stirring inside the well, add the hot water to the rice flour.
  3. Continue mixing and gradually add in the room temperature water until a soft, sticky dough forms. You may need more or less water to get the dough to a workable consistency. 
  4. Knead the dough with your hands until it forms a ball. 
  5. Pinch off a small piece of dough (if you get bits of dough that are about 3/4-inch wide, they'll make dumplings that are almost 1-inch wide). Keep the dough covered with a damp cloth while you work.
  6. Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a disk with the palms of your hands, then using your your thumbs and index fingers, gently pinch the edges of the disk to further thin out the dough, leaving the centre a little thicker than the edges. (Remember: like a sunny side-up egg).
  7. Take a small spoonful of your chosen filling and place it in the centre of your disk. If the filling you're using is really soft and sticky, you may find it easier to refrigerate the filling until it is firm.
  8. Wrap the dough around the filling, pinch it closed and roll it between the palms of your hands until smooth.
To cook: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add your dumplings. They are done when they float to the top. To hold them until serving time, remove them from the boiling water and float them in a bowl of room temperature water.

To serve: Make a sweet syrup by boiling water, sugar (to taste) and a good-sized piece of ginger root. When the syrup is well infused with ginger flavour, place some dumplings into a bowl and ladle some syrup over top. Alternately, if you're going to serve all your dumplings at once, you could add the dumplings to the syrup and bring the whole pot to the table... family-style.

To freeze: Place uncooked dumplings in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Once frozen you can place them in a zip-top bag and cook them (same method as above) straight from frozen.

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