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Rainbow Osmanthus Tang Yuan (七彩桂花汤圆)

Today is the first time we celebrate the Lantern Festival (元宵节 – Yuan Xiao Jie) with the girls in their SF apartment. Since the girls left for college, we haven’t been able to spend CNY together. This is the first year since they graduated that we are able to get-together again for CNY. There is none other than tang yuan (Yuan Xiao) for this special occasion. Yuan Xiao are supposed to be dumplings with filling. Typically they are filled with black sesame paste. As always, I have to jump through hoops to incorporate colors in my recipes, I skipped the filling this time. There are four different colored sweet potatoes and taro roots used in this recipe and it took me hours to prepare seven colored dumplings, all of them using natural color of the ingredients except the red dumplings. I love the rainbow tang yuan in osmanthus syrup! Its well worth the effort. Tang yuan symbolizes reunion; we had a great time spending Lantern Festival with everyone together again in SF!


Osmanthus Syrup

White dumpling

Green dumpling

Pink dumpling

Lilac dumpling

Orange dumpling

Yellow dumpling

Purple dumpling


I made these dumplings over several days. Freeze them until you are ready to serve.

Osmanthus Syrup

  1. Prepare the syrup when you are ready to cook the dumplings.
  2. Bring the water to boil with the screw pine leaves and the rock sugar. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Add the dried osmanthus flower to the syrup. Cover and let it sit for a 10 minutes

White, Green, and Pink dumplings

  1. Mix mochi flour for white dumplings with sugar and tofu in a large glass bowl.
  2. Knead until the dough is smooth.
  3. Divide into three equal portions. Reserve two portions for the green and pink dumplings respectively.
  4. Divide one portion into smaller chunks measuring 10g each. Roll each chunk into a round ball between your palms. Lightly coat each ball with a dust of sweet potato flour and arrange neatly in a storage container.
  5. To prepare the green dough, sprinkle the green tea powder over a portion of the reserved dough. Knead in the large glass bowl until the matcha powder is well blended and dough is smooth.
  6. Similarly,  divide the dough into chunks measuring 10g each. Roll each portion into round balls. Arrange neatly in storage container.
  7. To prepare the pink dumplings, place the last portion of white dough in the glass bowl. Add two drops of red food coloring and knead until they are blended with the dough.
  8. Divide the dough into chunks measuring 10g each. Roll each chunk into round balls. Arrange neatly in storage container.
  9. If you are ready to serve the dumplings, drop them into a pot of water heated to a slow boil and stir constantly until the dumplings float to the surface. Add half a cup of cold water and let water come to a slow boil again. Repeat two more times and remove the dumplings to the osmanthus syrup. Serve hot. Note: Before you put the dumplings into the water, make sure that the water is really boiling. I wasted one batch of dumplings when I put them in before the water really boiled and the dumplings disintegrated!
  10. If you are still up for more colored dumplings, freeze the dumplings and read on.

Lilac, Orange, Yellow, and Purple dumplings

  1. Cut the taro and sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.
  2. Steam the taro over high heat until completely softened. About 20 minutes.
  3. Mash the taro with the sugar while the taro is hot with a potato masher.
  4. Add the sweet potato flour to the mashed taro. Knead until it is completely blended and forms a smooth dough.
  5. Divide the dough into chunks measuring 10g each. Roll each chunk into round balls. Arrange neatly in storage container.
  6. Work the sweet potatoes in a similar manner by color. Repeat steps 2 – 5 for each color until all the dumplings are done.
  7. Freeze the dumplings if you do not plan to serve them immediately. Otherwise, follow step 9 above to boil the dumplings.
  8. Enjoy.