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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wanderer's Diary: "Tangyuan and Mei Heong Yuen Dessert"

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Tangyuan and Mei Heong Yuen Dessert

The inclusion of Sesame seeds in your recipe can turn an average dish into a tasteful one especially if you are making a sweet. There are a countless dessert or sweet recipes using sesame seeds in most of the cuisines. Think of a Sesame mochi in Japanese cuisine or a dry Sesame sweet balls ("Ellurundai" in Tamil) in Tamil cuisine. One can see Sesame candies throughout Malaysian food streets. That's the popularity of Sesame seeds!

"Mei Heong Yuen Dessert", Chinatown, Singapore

Unlike planned visits, wandering has a unique benefit as it allows you to see, taste something by experience and cherish it in the days to come. As I was wandering around Chinatown in Singapore, "Mei Heong Yuen Dessert (hereafter MHYD)" invited me inside at a first glance. I can't resist myself after seeing so many desserts in one place and that too traditional recipes! Located near China Town MRT, this outlet serves different varieties of traditional Chinese sweets. One of the desserts offered is "Tangyuan".

Tangyuan or tang yuan is the Chinese name of this dessert. Emperor Yuan Shikai gave this name of Tangyuan as the original name "yuanxiao" sounded similar to remove yuan. This dessert is a common one in Hakka and Cantonese cuisine. Tangyuan roughly translates to "round balls in a soup". It is made using glutinous rice flour, sesame/peanut paste or a similar sweet paste. For the soup, boiling water or ginger soup is used. There are other variances of this soup as some recipes suggest to use just hot water and few other recipes suggest sugar syrup water. No matter how many recipes are out there; one thing is common among all: "hot water". I personally feel hot water is what is making this dessert into a great one.
In MYHD, tang yuan has two varieties: Sesame fillings or peanut fillings. For S$3, MHYD offers 4 sweet balls with both varieties. The glutinous rice balls are sticky and it is served in the hot ginger soup. The trick is to eat the sweet ball as a "whole" that gives a complete taste of this dessert. If eaten by taking a bite, either you end up tasting the rice flour or just the paste. In my opinion, tasting it as a whole ball gives the right and perfectly blended taste.

A similar South Indian dessert is made on the occasion of "Ganesh Chathurthi" called "Ellu Mothagam". The only difference is the shape, hot water/soup and the usage of jaggery instead of sugar as used in tang yuan.

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