ChihYu is the recipe developer, photographer, and writer behind the blog I Heart Umami – a recipe inspiration site for Asian food lovers on a Paleo diet and lifestyle. ChihYu’s passion is re-inventing the recipes of her childhood for healthier, lighter, and easier versions without sacrificing the authenticity. She aims to introduce recipes that are popular in Asia but sometimes not commonly known in the Western world and recreate them for paleo food lovers. Download ChihYu’s free meal plan and beginner’s guide to the Asian Paleo diet and follow her on Instagram @ IHeartUmami.NY!
These gluten-free dessert dumplings will bring a big smile to your face. Guaranteed.
What Is Tang Yuan?
Growing up in Asia, people love these sweet round-shape dumplings called Tang Yuan. You’d often find them at special occasions like weddings, New Year’s, lantern festivals, or just about any happy occasion that calls for a bit of sweetness to satisfy the craving in all of us.
Traditionally, these dumplings are made with sticky rice flour with a slightly chewy texture, and filled with either savory (ground meat) or sweet (ground peanuts, sesame etc) filling and served in a ginger infused sweet broth.
How To Make Paleo Tang Yuan
I love and miss them so much that I decided to search for a Paleo-friendly version so I could share my love of these gluten-free and vegan-friendly desserts with my American friends!
If you’re using sweet potato or yam for the dumpling dough as I did, you should know that some varieties have more water content than others. In general, the dough should be pliable and have an even, smooth and soft texture. If it seems tough and cracks, follow the instructions below and add another tablespoon of water. If it’s too wet or sticky, add a bit more arrowroot flour until it isn’t.
These sweet potato dumplings symbolize completeness and harmony in Chinese culture. Their intensely nutty and rich flavor complement the subtle bitterness and fragrance of the flower tea – it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Place the sesame seeds in a food processor and grind the seeds until fine. (If you use store-bought smooth almond butter, please skip this step.)
In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup and ground black sesame seeds (or almond butter) until they form a thick paste.
Cover the paste and refrigerate until the mixture is firm (about 30-40 mins).
To make the purple yam paste filling:
Place the mashed purple yam with maple syrup and coconut cream in a food processor and process until they form a thick paste.
Cover the paste and set aside.
Sweet potato dough (same method as for the purple yam dough):
Mix mashed sweet potato, arrowroot starch, and olive oil.
Mix and knead the dough until it looks like clay dough. Make sure the dough isn’t too wet or too dry. If too dry, add hot water (one tbsp at a time). If the dough is too wet, skip the water and add a bit more arrowroot starch/flour. The dough should be pliable.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll them as balls. Cover with plastic wrap to keep them moist.
Flatten 1 portion of the dough with your hand (do NOT dust with more flour) to about 1/8″ (3 mm) thick.
Place the 1/2 tsp filling in the center of the flattened dough, then bring the edges tightly together at the top, then pinch off excess dough. Roll the ball in between your palms to shape them as round and even as you can (being careful not to expose the filling).
Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces.
Tip: Steps 1-7 can be performed days in advance of serving – these tang yuan can be kept frozen until needed.
To cook and serve:
Brew a pot of your favorite tea (I used caffeine-free flowering honeybush tea). Set aside to cool.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn the heat down to medium and gently drop the balls into the pot. (You don’t need to defrost the dumplings if you previously froze them.)
Give them a gentle stir to prevent the tang yuan from sticking to the bottom, then cook for 3~4 min until they float to the surface, then another 1 min until slightly swelled up. Drain with a slotted spoon.
Note: Because the purple yam filling is more dense than the sesame paste, it is likely that the purple yam tang yuan won’t float to the surface. Follow the same steps above and cook for an additional minute.
Use a slotted spoon to remove from water. Immediately transfer the dumplings to the ice bath and let them cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
Briefly drain cooked dumplings and add them to a bowl of the chilled tea.