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THANKSGIVING À LA CHINOIS: Alternative Festive Recipes

The holiday season is nearing as Thanksgiving quickly creeps up on us. I cannot wait to go home and eat yummy foods and spend time with family. Celebrating Thanksgiving is a relatively new thing in our family, since my siblings and cousins were all born in the states. My parents, aunts, and uncles never held a formal celebration. American Thanksgiving is not prevalent in Chinese culture, but the Chinese do have their own Winter Solstice/Chinese Thanksgiving that they celebrate in late December. During that time, it is traditional to eat tangyuan, which are glutinous rice balls. Tangyuan are usually served in the broth they are cooked in, which is usually starchy and flavorless. But the tangyuan themselves can be either sweet or salty and packed with flavor. I’m going to share a recipe for tangyuan for this Thanksgiving because even though it isn’t Chinese Thanksgiving, my family has taken this dish from our culture and integrated it into our celebrations of American Thanksgiving.




  • 1 cup of white gluntinous rice flour
  • ½ cup of luke warm water


  • 1/3 cup of raw unsalted peanut (without skin)
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of grounded ginger


  1. Place flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour lukewarm water into the well and slowly combine until it becomes dough that lifts away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with a cloth and set aside.
  2. Lightly fry the peanuts in hot oil. Pound or grind the peanut until it forms a nice paste. Add sugar and peanut butter and mix well. Set aside.
  3. To prepare the tangyuan, divide the dough into roughly 16 pieces (about 1 ½ inch balls). Flatten the dough gently on the palm, scoop peanut filling and place onto center of the dough. Lift the ends up and slowly press together. Give it a gentle roll and finish the rest. Please note, do not over fill the dough or it will burst while boiling
  4. Boil the tang yuan in boiling water and wait until they float to the top. Serve while warm.
Recipe courtesy Jeroxie

Cooking tangyuan is easy, but getting used to forming them is a little tricky. It would definitely add some fun to hands-on activities at Thanksgiving and it gives the kids something to do. The sweet tangyuans would be a yummy dessert while the savory ones could serve as a simple appetizer before the giant meal. The fillings can vary and you can include what you like. Sweet tangyuans generally have a peanut filling or black sesame paste filling. My aunt makes savory tangyuan with ground pork and scallions—sort of like a dumpling but with a glutinous, chewy ball around of it instead of a thin wrapper. I prefer the sweet ones to the savory ones, but they’re both good. Take a stab at it for Thanksgiving, or save it for another time since winter is coming. It’s a tasty, warm comfort food that doesn’t need to be limited to Thanksgiving, either American or Chinese. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

– Christina Pan

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