The northern Chinese folks call them Yuanxiao (usually eaten during Chap Goh Mei or the The Lantern Festival) and the southerners call them Tangyuan (eaten during the Chinese winter solstice). In Singapore, we call them Ah Boling (Ah Balling) but it is actually Ah Bo Nin. Ah Boling is supposedly a homophone in the Teochew dialect where “Ah Bo” is mother duck and “Nin” refers to the bopping up and down action of the mother duck’s head.
Ah Boling used to be simple – 5 balls of different fillings – red bean, black sesame, peanut, yam and in recent years, the durian paste. Unlike Yuanxiao which is a savoury vegetable soup based with minced meat filling in the rice balls – Ah Boling is much more like Tangyuan, the sweet sister of Yuanxiao.
The original hawkers sold Ah Boling in sugared water, some slices of ginger and a huge bundle of pandan leaves. Later, sophisticated tastes produced sweetened soybean milk as the soup base. Variations like boiled peanuts or lotus nuts are added to the soup, too.
It is not difficult to make plain glutinous rice balls from scratch but to make those with fillings, some pinching skill is required – otherwise the fillings may burst into the soup during boiling.
Again the ingredients on this post dates back to the Shaoxing Chicken post when Keef and I shopped at Parkway. We bought a lot of stuff together with this packet of frozen Tangyuan. We decided to cook them with whatever was available in his fridge.
Ah Boling is a delightful dessert. It doesn’t require much effort to make this hot dessert at home these days because one can easily buy Tangyuan of any desired fillings from the supermarket. In Melbourne, we usually buy Peanut, Black Sesame, Yam and Red Bean paste filled Tangyuan, all at the same time and uses a few of each paste to create a “surprise me” bowl of Ah Boling.
Ginger soup health benefits
Drink the ginger soup as they are good for blood circulation and “body warming” especially during winter time.
- 1 packet of Tangyuan with the filling (s) of your choice (use as many as you want).
- 4 Red Dates (remove seeds), rinsed.
- 8-10 Dried Longans, rinsed.
- 1 slice-2 thumb-sized Old Ginger, peel skin, rinse and sliced thinly.
- 2-3 tablespoons Sugar, (or adjust to your taste).
- 600ml Water for soup base (250ml-300ml soup for each person.
- more Water for boiling the rice balls separately, if using this extra step.
Method for my Ginger Red Dates Longan Soup:
Heat all the ingredients except for the rice balls in a pot and bring it to a fast boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Add sugar to taste.
Place the rice balls in the soup or cook them separately in another pot.
Method for boiling Glutinous Rice Balls:
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop in the rice balls gently and keep stirring to prevent the balls from sticking to each other over medium high heat for 5 minutes.
Lower heat to medium and cook a further 3 minutes.
When the balls are floating and soft to the touch, they are ready.
Place the rice balls in a bowl and top with the ginger soup.
Serve hot. The ginger, red dates and dried longans may be eaten.