Frozen rice balls are hot during winter solstice

Tang yuan is a dish made with glutinous rice flour, stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings, and served in syrup or broth. It is traditionally served on the day of the winter solstice.
Tang yuan is a dish made with glutinous rice flour, stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings, and served in syrup or broth. It is traditionally served on the day of the winter solstice.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Supermarket sales spike; dough sellers say fewer people are making their own

For convenience, more people are buying ready-made glutinous rice balls, or tang yuan, for winter solstice festivities.

Supermarket sales for frozen tang yuan went up in the lead-up to yesterday's winter solstice festival compared with last year's, as dough sellers said fewer people are making their own.

The festival marks the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and is known as Dongzhi, which means "arrival of winter" in Mandarin.

It is celebrated by the Chinese as a day for family gatherings. Tang yuan is traditionally served on this day as a symbol of reunion.

 

The dumplings are made with glutinous rice flour, stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings such as peanut, red bean and sesame paste, and served in syrup or broth.

Supermarket chain Sheng Siong told The Straits Times that it has seen a jump in sales of 20 per cent to 30 per cent for its frozen tang yuan compared with those during last year's festive period.

FairPrice said it has seen a 5 per cent increase, while Giant reported a double-digit growth in sales of ready-to-cook tang yuan this year.

While supermarkets have seen a rise in demand, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that some market stalls selling handmade glutinous rice flour dough have seen a drop in business of up to 30 per cent compared with last year's sales.

Mr Chen Chang Fu, who sells the dough at his Toa Payoh Lorong 4 stall, told Zaobao he has seen sales drop by about 30 per cent a year.

"Young people are working and find (the dumplings) troublesome to make, so many buy (them) frozen, while older people have to stop making (them) as age catches up with them," said Mr Chen, 70, who has been selling the dough for more than 50 years.

Madam Jenny Lee, 44, who picked up three packets of frozen tang yuan at Junction 8's FairPrice Finest for a reunion dinner yesterday, agreed. "My mother used to make (the dumplings) but her arthritis is bad now, so I told her not to. I don't have time to make them myself as I'm working and it's not a public holiday," she said.

Housewife Mary Chng, 33, who also bought the frozen fare, said: "It's more convenient to buy. It's not as good as my grandmother's, but it's not bad if you steam it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Frozen rice balls are hot during winter solstice'. Print Edition | Subscribe