Chinese sticky rice balls with chocolate filling

Chinese Sticky Rice Balls (Yuan Xiao/ Tang Yuan) for Chinese Lantern Festival

Location: Nan Jing, China
Recipe Style: Dessert/ Breakfast
Cuisine: Chinese, Western
Difficulty: Medium

Chinese Sticky Rice Balls (Yuan Xiao/ Tang Yuan) for Chinese Lantern Festival

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Serving Size: 2-3


  • 100g sticky rice flour
  • 75g cold drinking water

  • Filling:
  • chocolate
  • red bean paste
  • nougat


  1. Mixing water into the sticky rice, knead it slowly until forming a dough
  2. Take about 20g of the dough, shape it to a ball then flatten it
  3. Cook the flat dough in hot water
  4. Take the dough out when it's fully cooked, after drying and cooling, mix it in the rest of the rice flour dough, keep kneading until unstick
  5. Roll the dough to long shape, cut them into smaller portion about 10g each
  6. Roll the dough in both hands to form a ball, then press it to a bowl shape
  7. Fill the kind of filling you like into the dough, close the dough
  8. Keep rolling in both hands until the filling is fully covered
  9. Take a large pot, cook the water to boil
  10. Drop in the rice balls and cook for about 3 minutes until the rice balls are floating in the water.
  11. Sprinkle on yellow bean powders/ sesame seeds/ almond powder

Chinese sticky rice balls are made of sticky rice flour and all kinds of sweet fillings. Sesame and red bean pastes are two of the most traditional ones. In some regions of China, people also like to make them with veggies, meat or other salty fillings. While growing up in southern China, sweet rice balls were one of my favourite desserts. Salty rice balls are just inedible to me. In the back of my mind, rice balls have to be sweet. The sweeter the better!

Except for a few times of a month/week when you just feel like a sugar hit, those sweet hearted tiny balls can be a perfect solution for that matter. Other times sticky rice balls are specially made on Chinese lantern festival, which is 15 days after the Chinese new year on the 15th of January in the lunar calendar (正月十五). The first full moon night of the year. It’s also the end of a long and important Chinese fest season. Spring is finally coming after this day.

In China sticky rice balls represent family reunion. Family is one of the most important things in our lives. It might be impossible to celebrate every Chinese new year with my families together back home in China, but by dropping a few of those perfectly shaped rice balls in the boiling water, staring at them turning and rolling with the steaming hot water bubbles until soft and glossy on the surface. The warm feeling of families and belonging just came unstoppably from deep of my heart.

There’s always one or many historical stories behind everything in China. It’s no exception here: A long time ago (about 2000 years ago) in a land far far away (in China), there was a little girl called “yun xiao” which means rice balls in Chinese who was working in the palace by herself all year round. She missed her families terribly. A beloved servant of the emperor found out her story and wanted to help her. He told the emperor that the city would be burned to the ground on the 15th of January. The only way to avoid this catastrophe was to ask the little girl to make hundreds and thousands of rice balls on this day and gifted them to every citizens in the city. The city was “saved”, and “yun xiao” was given the chance to see her families again.

Besides of its important role in Chinese culture, rice balls are just a perfect dessert. I will try a few different fillings in my cooking video. Hope you enjoy them. Please visit our YouTube channel for my cooking video.

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One comment

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