This weekend is the traditional Lantern Festival, which indicates the end of Spring Festival. Believe it or not, it has a history traced back about 2000 years in the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220)! Here come the Chinese history and culture lesson 🙂 Emperor Hanmingdi was an advocate of Buddhism and he heard that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Therefore, he advocated that all the temples, households, and royal palaces light lanterns on that evening. Gradually, this Buddhist custom became an important festival among Chinese people.
Lantern Festival is called 元宵节 Yuánxiāojié /ywen-sshyaoww jyeah/ and it also has an alternative name as 上元节 Shàngyuánjié shung-ywen-jyeah/. Chinese people celebrate it by enjoying lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, eating tangyuan or yuan xiao (glutinous rice balls), lion and dragon dances, etc.
I remember when I was young, my grandparents always said that you couldn’t perfectly end the Spring Festival without eating Tangyuan in Lantern Festival. Therefore, I decide to adventure to make small rice balls on my own according to the recipe. I prefer the sweet flavor, so I want to try with purple sweet potato filling. Here are the steps:
1. Gradually add in water to tapioca flour while mix it until there’s dry flour in the bowl to form a ball.
2. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth, elastic but not sticky, then cover the dough with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes.
3. While waiting for the dough, steam the purple sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes. Then peel the potatoes and mash them. Add some condensed milk and rub them into small balls.
4. Rub the dough into a strip and cut it into several indents. Place the small balls made in step 3 onto the indent and draw the sides up to enclose it. Roll it gently between palms to make it a smooth ball.
5. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add the small rice balls into the boiling water and gently stir them. Simmer for about 15 minutes when the skins are almost translucent and the purple filling is obvious.
Ha, finally they look really yummy, as crystal as the glass marbles I played with when I was a kid 🙂 Then enjoy eating Tangyuan and happy Lantern Festival!