Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice 冬至

Tangyuan in raw pu'er tea
On this day, the 21st of December, many Chinese keep up with the tradition of consuming glutinous rice balls jam-packed with flavours like red bean paste, matcha, peanuts or sesame seeds, cooked in a sugary soup base made from ginger and sugar. I love this sweet treat that marks the shortest day of the year and technically speaking, you're supposed to eat the number of rice balls that concurs with your biological age. Of course this isn't a strictly enforced rule!

Using a smaller amount of raw pu'er flakes
As with all festive treats, the discomfort of overeating never fails to set in too early, too soon. In his blog, Teaparker suggested substituting the usual sweet broth with lightly brewed raw pu'er tea. A combination like this helps to bring out the sweet rice fragrance from the dough. I thought this to be a brilliant suggestion as the light tea infusion can certainly help balance the sweetness of the rice balls and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect given my first time experimenting with tea in the culinary field.

Preheating the bowl with warm water
It took a few times of trial and error to make the dough and filling from scratch. By then, I already had 6 rice balls inside my system and was starting to bloat. Finally, I managed three almost perfectly round rice balls filled with a sweet potato paste that did not leak out. As the water came to a boil and the rice balls were almost ready, I was thinking to myself if I would still be able to make room for these last three balls that are about to be dished up in a bowl of lightly infused raw pu'er tea.

I first took a sip of the tea and then a bite. I could sense how the flavours of the dough and the freshness of the tea fused beautifully like tomato and basil. The glutinous rice balls felt much lighter in texture and consistency as I chewed on them (a bit like butter) and the slight astringency in the tea faded away as the flavours all came together in a seamless fusion.

More tea to follow a heavy meal
I was enjoying my dessert even more so now thanks to this wonderful combination with raw pu'er tea. My stomach also felt less heavy as I went on to take a few sips of this tea.

Yum, yum, yum is all I can say for now - and if you are thinking of letting yourself go and tuck in as heartily as you can stomach, by all means go ahead, but don't forget to pack a party stash of your favourite pu'er tea to give that extra boost of digestion.

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