Good evening, dear friends 😀
Today is the Winter Solstice Festival (called “Tung Jit” in Cantonese), which is a grand festival celebrated by the Chinese worldwide. It is symbolised by the making, cooking and eating of little marble-sized glutinous rice balls called “Tong Yuen”, which is served in a bowl of sugar syrup that has been boiled with a few pandan leaves. Traditionally, the Tong Yuens are in colours of white and pink, but I had coloured mine with yellow and green as well to make them more exciting! 😆 The roundness of the rice balls symbolise “completeness” and “unity”.
The Chinese began celebrating the Winter Solstice as a festival back during the Han Dynasty in China, around 206 B.C. The Winter Solstice in the Solar Calendar is the day when sunlight is the weakest and the daylight shortest. Relatives and friends would give each other delicious food that they have cooked. I have given my Indian neighbours a casserole of the Tong Yuens in sugar syrup, which their young children really enjoy. 😀
This festival is a gathering of family members to chip in together and shape these rice balls, often an occasion for the reunion of loved ones. Usually, the matriarch of the family will lead in this “rice ball rolling” tradition. In my case, as both my parents and parents-in-law have passed away, I am the matriach of my family and this year, I only have my 2 sons to help me. Hehe, being boys, their attention span was short lived and I ended up rolling the majority of the 500 Tong Yuens! 🙄 Nevertheless, we had fun together.
For the recipes, please READ HERE
Rolled “Tong Yuens” before cooking –
Bowls of colourful cooked Tong Yuens in sugar syrup –
Hehe, feeding Kitty a Tong Yuen…. 🙄 😆
My Winter Solstice Festival Dinner –
For my festival dinner today, I cooked some of the traditional festival dishes that I had learned from my late mother-in-law. Here is my Winter Solstice Festival menu –
1) Treasure Soup
– hehe, I gave the soup this name as there were many types of ingredients diced and then boiled for a while in chicken stock. It has many colours, like jewels in a bowl, and hence the name. I had put in diced shitake mushrooms, canned button mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, white fungus, peas, corn, and pork. The chicken stock was pre-boiled with one old, female chicken for 3 hours. Actually, the Chinese name of this soup is “Lap Lap Tong.”
2) My Mother-in-law’s Curry Chicken Recipe
– this was a recipe that I had learned from her 20 years ago and this dish is a must-have on special occasions for my husband.
3) Steamed Salted Chicken
– as my eldest daughter doesn’t take spicy food (curries), I cooked this for her but my family loves the smooth, tender taste of this chicken, too. I marinated 2 large chicken legs with 2 tbsps of salt overnight and they were steamed over a slow fire (actually I had put a steamer over my simmering soup), thus resulting in juicy, perfectly done chicken. They were left to cool when done, and I rubbed more salt and a tbsp of sesame oil – hence the name “Salted chicken”. They were cut into pieces before serving.
I also serve this same type of chicken when I cook Hainanese Chicken Rice for my family. Later, I will write the recipe for you as I also have my mother-in-law’s yummy version of it. It is a special sauce that my family (especially my kids) loves very much and we don’t see this sauce served with chicken rice elsewhere.
4) Fuzhou Fish Balls
– Fuzhou fish balls are unique in that there is some minced pork filling in the centre of the fish balls, thus making them very interesting and tasty to eat. I cooked them with some chicken stock (taken from the simmering chicken soup), sliced button mushrooms and snap peas.
5) Deep Fried Garlic Pork Slices
– this is easy to make with some pork belly sliced into thin strips and marinated with some soy sauce, lots of chopped garlic, wine, cornstarch, salt and pepper. The wine and cornstarch will tenderize the meat. Then the pork is dipped in flour, then egg, and lastly breadcrumbs before deep frying. They taste best when served with mayonnaise and chili sauce. Oh, I also have lots of sliced cucumber (cucumber has “cooling” properties) on the side to balance the “heatiness” of this fried dish. 😉
6) Hokkien Mee (Thick Egg Noodles in Black Sauce)
– my husband is from the Hokkien province and therefore, we always have Hokkien Mee on special occasions or festivals. It is thick yellow egg noodles cooked with a variety of meats, chicken gravy,black soy sauce, cabbage and sawi greens. The yummy and special ingredient that makes this dish heavenly is deep fried, crispy pork fat/lard!
7) Tong Yuen (Glutinous Rice Balls)
– as this is the Winter Solstice Festival, this was our dessert. 😉
Wow, everyone is now stuffed full from this festival feasting….in a few more days, I will be cooking Roast Turkey with all the trimmings for our Christmas Eve dinner. Right now, I am relaxing in front of the comp, sipping many cups of strong Green Tea to help with the digestion and cut some of the fat. 😆
Later, I will provide the recipes in more detail for the above dishes.
Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings, everyone! 😀