Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Tong yin fiasco

Yesterday most Chinese were probably busy in their kitchen making the annual tong yin concoction for the Chinese Winter Solstice festival. This is the first year Laura and I decided to try our hands at it after a few brief instructions from a friend of hers. It sounded so simple as she told it, “just get some rice flour, a few spoons of sugar, water and knead the dough to form balls, boil water with ginger slices and pandan leaves with some sugar and you’re set!” Armed with this bit of advice we went shopping for the necessary ingredients.

Back home, another friend of ours, Lawrence said he would be over to help guide us. Before that we opted to try a few on our own only to have him reprimand us that our dough was too watery and the balls were not firm but sticking to the plate. So he stated that the flour should first be rinsed in half a cup of boiling water and further kneading was carried out with the infusion of small amounts of ice water until the dough is formed but not to the point that it neither sticks to your hands nor crumble due from a lack of moisture.

Thus we made a lump of pink ones and later the rest were white. Rolling the balls happily and setting them onto the plates, we joked at the attempts by us (at this point another two of Laura’s housemates joined in) at making the balls only to find the plate being filled with uneven sized balls. Melissa shouted out to her boyfriend, “Sayang, your balls are not of the same size, one’s gigantic and the other is puny!” She then became quiet for a moment as she realized she had blurted this statement out loud with the whole house in earshot!

Progress was good, we managed to get five plates done. Mostly they looked okay but for fun the couple made some with smiley face and snowmen shaped balls (traditionalists would kill us right there and then). Everything was fine until we decided to boil the balls, we were perplexed as even after half an hour, the balls were not floating to the surface as they should and a taste test found they have hardened to the consistency of rocks! This was a little puzzling until we found out to our surprise that the rice flour we had was the wrong kind! Written in Chinese the back stated the flour was for the production of vermicelli, no wonder ours were not floating up. Should’ve figured it needed glutinous flour not normal flour. Well with five whole trays of the stuff we felt down, having to discard the quickly hardening dough. Well so goes our first experiment with the dish. Maybe next year we’ll get it right, no tong yin this year for us.

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