Sweetness and Warmth in a Bowl

Posted on 2 Mar, 2012 | Eat Magazine

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Singaporeans call this dessert of glutinous rice balls with two names, either as Ah Balling or Tang Yuan. Chinese definitely in origins, this dessert is the staple dish for at least two Chinese festivals -- Winter Solstice/Dongzhi (December 23) & Yuan Xiao, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year (January 06).  

Traditionally served on the last day of winter, marking the days ahead as having more sunlight and thus having more positive energy, Tang Yuan symbolizes a better tomorrow. Feasting on a bowl of Tang Yuan or Ah Balling reminds us that there is year ahead filled with hope and prosperity. During the Chinese New Year Celebrations, Tang Yuan is offered to the gods. When served during wedding banquets, the bride and groom are instructed to swallow the rice balls in whole instead of chewing them as a sign of a happy (sweet balls) and lasting (sticky balls) marriage.

Tang Yuan is glutinous rice balls, either with fillings or not , served in either clear sweet syrup or peanut soup. The plain or empty Tang Yuan have smaller rice balls in pink, light green or white. Rice balls with fillings are larger, with fillings like black sesame. peanut and red bean pastes. Nowadays, there are new variants with green tea, lotus seed and yam.

It is common to find two kinds of soup in the heartlands, the Teowchew stye with balls in clear sweetened syrup flavoured with pandan leaves or ginger; or the Hokkien style with balls in peanut soup. The latest twist is soya based Ah Balling with silky tofu or almond milk replacing the boiled peanuts.

Regardless if you have a sweet tooth or not, the rice balls when cooked just right is smooth, soft and chewy. When you bite into it, there is a bit of a resistance as the filling is released and oozes out.  The aroma of the filling comes out with every bite.

Sweetie Desserts

Blk 209 Hougang Street 21 #01-30 
Kovan Hougang Market and Food Centre (S)  530209
Mei Zhi Lu Ah Balling Peanut Soup
Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road #01-43 
Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre (S) 270020
Hai Seng Ah Balling
Blk 335 Smith Street #02-059 
Chinatown Complex Market  (S) 050335
Telephone: 93205596, 98410226, 62721347
75 Ah Balling Peanut Soup
505 Beach Road #01-75 
Golden Mile Food Centre  (S) 199583
Telephone: 97605710
Zhen Jie Desserts
7 Maxwell Road #02-113
Amoy Food Centre (S) 069111

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