December 22, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice Festival

Today 22nd December is Winter Solstice in the Chinese Calendar.

Chinese celebrate it by cooking up a great family reunion (tuan yuan( dinner. But the most important dish is the Tang Yuen (Mandarin) or Che (Foochow). Foochow children call these sweet little peanut and soy bean coated balls Sii Yan.

For my children (California - Kuala Lumpur -Perth) who are not with me these are the pictures for them. Imagine that I am making these for you.

When my grandmother was around we used the Foochow stone mill (sior moh) to prepare the milled glutinous rice from scratch at 21 Brooke Drive Sibu (now Orchid Hotel). A gantang (old measurement) of glutinous rice would have been soaked for about a day before the Tong Zhi (Winter Festival) in an aluminium bucket. Early the next morning my mum and all of us would be around the mill to help mill the soaked rice. When the white fluid came out we were so happy and expectant! I have always felt that food processing (whether it is high tech or very simple old fashion technology) has a great impact on the mind of a thinking child.

Those tall enough would take a turn at pushing the mill to press out the watery rice and grandmother would add a bit of rice and a bit of water. She never used any measurement for this.

Soon all the rice would have been milled and we waited for the next step : the wet rice flour would be placed in a cloth bag and then pressed dry by the top piece of the stone mill. That would take a few hours. By about 10 when the wet dough was ready to be made into balls the wood fire would be started and we would gather around yet another time to make the balls. It was a happy time for stories and good family round table talk!! That's where I got most of the stories about old times from my grandmother.

When I next visit my mum in Kuching I must take a photo of the stone mill which she inherited from my father's grand dad. It is still a valued part of our family "belongings". I have been grabbing photos of stone mills from the Net to illustrate my point.

Happy Winter Festival!! Miss you kids!!

Here are the steps:

Prepare the simple dough using some water and store bought glutinous rice flour. Make little round balls of 1 cm diameter.

Prepare a pot of boiling hot water. As the water boils place the glutinous rice balls into the pot and wait for all of them to float. Use a perforated ladle to scoop up the cooked glutinous rice balls.

This is the sugar and roasted soya bean and peanut powder for the coating. Nothing beats this!!

Mix the coating with the balls using a pair of chopsticks.

This is how you can make a skewer of rice balls.

When I was young we played a game called "Who can eat the most Sii Yan". We would skewer as many rice balls with a chopstick. I believe a cousin of mine was champion. He could skewer ten balls on his chopstick and he had five chopsticks ie. 50 in one sitting.

Here's Kooi Hoong enjoying some Foochow rice balls. He is Penang Hokkien in origin actually.

Earlier we had some Cantonese styled tang yuen sent by Aunty Honey.

And so until next year...another Winter Solstice Festival.


Ah Ngao said...

hehe...why no colour one?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao

Hehe...Foochows make our Che white. The Hokkiens have white and pink.....
Some people in Sibu who are creative have many different colours.
I like mine plain and traditional.
Happy Winter Solstice.

wenn said...

nice! merry xmas!

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Thanks for dropping by! Wishing you fine weather for Christmas and the New Year....

Anonymous said...

Hi there

I always love these...glutinous rice balls as moichi- and also onde onde . My aunt married Hakka so she also makes sampua disks of the Hakkas... Interesting to see all these sweet or savoury rice balls interconnecting different races.My Thai friends put colourful glutinous rice balls in a cold soup of coconut milk. I like the smell of pandan too. This dish is nice but heart choking...but I am young and what lah!! Thanks for the nice pix.

Why don't the Chinese sell these Sii Yan in the stalls?


Ann said...

Hi Cy,

Merry Christmas. I am enjoying myself on the Goldcoast where my Foochowe SIL has intorduced to her neighbourhood Carolling.

The stone, I have a photo of one of me helping my grandma. It is not a hand held one, but has a long handle, thus much better as it takes less effort.

How was your mum's like?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi..good that you are in the Gold Coast....carolling is fun.

Yes my mum's grinder has a long handle which is also detachable. I still remember that the rod is iron and got rusty.

Your photo of you helping your grandma is invaluable!!

Merry Christmas.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Justin

Thanks for visiting. Yes I like the Thai glutinous rice balls in coconut milk and eating cold. The pandan fragrance is really out of this world.

Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

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