Tang Yuan 汤圆 and Yuan Xiao 元宵 are must-have delicious glutinous rice balls eaten during the Chinese Lantern Festival, and shared within families. Even a lot of Chinese people think that Yuanxiao and Tangyuan are the same food. Actually, they are very similar; both are sticky rice balls with fillings, but the fundamental differences lie in their making, fillings, cooking, and storage.
The first step of making Yuanxiao is preparing the solid fillings, and then it is cut into small pieces. After dipping in water, fillings are rolled in a flat basket containing dry glutinous rice flour. The step is repeated until the wrapper is thick enough; the ball grows into a big, round shape.
Tangyuan is made of a glutinous rice wrapper covering fillings. The method is like making dumplings, and it is kneaded into a round ball.
Yuanxiao is usually made of sesame and bean paste, and fruit fillings are very common now.
Tangyuan has two different tastes, made of glutinous flour with sweet or salty stuffing. Sweet fillings include bean paste, jujube paste, and sesame sugar, while salty fillings are minced meat with crushed peanut or mushroom and other mixtures.
In northern China, Yuanxiao is making and sold on that day, for it will easily crack when refrigerated.
Tangyuan can be kept in cold storage for a very long time, so quick-frozen Tangyuan is sold in supermarkets.
1. Although Yuanxiao and Tangyuan are both very tasty, the main ingredient is glutinous rice that cannot be digested easily, and fillings have a lot of calories.
2. It is not recommend for people who are overweight, have poor digestion, gastrointestinal illness, kidney disease, and chronic pancreatitis. Also, Children should not eat it too much.
3. Drinking the soup from Tangyuan or Yuanxiao is recommended, as it helps digestion.