How to Make Glutinous Rice Balls for Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice, or Dōngzhì Festival, is one of the traditional Chinese festivals and also one of the twenty-four solar terms. It falls on or around December 22nd every year.

AS early as 770-476 BC, also known as the Spring and Autumn Period in ancient Chinese history, some famous physician named Zhang Zhongjing of the Eastern Han Dynasty figured out the point of Winter Solstice.

On that day, daytime is the shortest and nighttime the longest in the Northern hemisphere. Pass that day, the effect is reversed and daytime will gradually grow longer. It is believed that the day became a since the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD).

People believe that yang, the positive side of the philosophy, yin yang, will become the dominant force after the festival.

To celebrate the day, people usually have meat dumplings and tangyuan, a kind of dessert consists of balls made from glutinous rice flour in syrup soup. Flavours of tangyuan can change with various stuffings, but traditionally, plain tangyuan is enjoyed in Winter Solstice.

Tangyuan is tasty and very easy to make. Making some homemade tangyuan would be a great opportunity for you to spend time with your and even your domestic helper. Engaging your helper will create a better connection within the family. So, here’s a simple recipe that you can follow:


For making glutinous rice balls:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice flour
  • Red and yellow colouring (optional)

For making syrup soup:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2/4 cup of Chinese rock or cane sugar (add more if you want it to be extra sweet)
  • 3 thin slices of ginger (the more the hotter)


1. Place all the soup ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Put the glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl. Then add the water slowly while mixing. Mix well. Knead dough until elastic.

3. Separate the dough into 3 equal parts. Add 1-2 drops of red and yellow colouring each to one of the pieces, knead until evenly coloured (optional, but who doesn’t like a bit of colour?).

3. Split each piece of dough into 12-14 equal portions. Roll each piece gently into the shape of a ball.

4. Boil a pot of water. Place carefully the balls into the bubbling water in small batches. Simmer for 5 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove and submerge the glutinous balls into iced water instantly. Repeat for all batches.

5. Pour the warm sweet soup into bowls. Place 5-10 tangyuan in each.

And Voilà! There you have it. A nice bowl steamy, sweet Chinese dessert great for the winter. The colourful, chewy glutinous rice balls would definitely win your kids’ heart. If you haven’t tried this dessert before, why not give it a go! It’s simple, quick and inexpensive to make. Happy Winter Solstice!

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