Sweet Mini Dumplings Soup - Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed

by Shirl

A while back Marjan wrote about the notion of sharing recipes; the pieces I enjoyed very much. Throughout this year we have also been showered with a bounty of guest posts. It’s wonderful to see that we are surrounded with people who are happy to share. So here we are to continue celebrating this idea I’d like to share with you a recipe that is graciously given to me from my brother and his girlfriend.

But not so fast, I feel compelled to also take part in this and share a tidbit of culinary novelty that has come my way and happens to tie to the recipe very well.

Cooking ingredients come in and out of favor in our kitchens. This rather novel ingredient I’ve learnt of recently has to do with fermented rice.  The ingredient is called shio-koji. It is made with koji, salt and water. Traditionally koji is used in sake-brewing. It is essentially rice grains that have been inoculated with a special kind of mold so the rice would ferment, an age-old technique used in Japan for hundreds of years.

How is shio-koji used in the kitchen? The rice mixture functions very well as marinade. The enzyme action helps to bring out the umami flavor within food.  You can find shio-koji ready-to-use in jars in Japanese markets.  If you feel adventurous, you could also try to make it yourself.  The process, which is well-documented online, takes just a few days.

I have yet to incorporate koji in my cooking but have actually come across something very similar in Chinese cuisine. This is where the recipe of a traditional Chinese dessert comes in. Running along the theme here, you would guess right that a relevant ingredient in this dessert has to do with fermented rice. Turns out Chinese has its own version too. It carries a degree of tanginess, offering a respectable counterpunch to the sweetness of this dessert.

Take a sip of this light golden soup and your palette immediately feels the excitement juxtaposed by the sweet soup and the soft tangy rice grains. As soon as the shreds of egg drops make their presence known, your senses are suddenly enveloped by a mild, sweet, and utterly floral aroma. If you open your eyes now and pay a quick glance, you'd notice bits of gold flecks scintillating amidst the mini pearl-white dumplings. What are they? 

Sweet osmanthus - those teeny tiny yellow flowers.  Sweet, dried, floral.  It's gold dust encapsulated in a bottle.

There's no time to process that; the dumplings are beckoning. A quick and decisive bite and you find yourself encountering an interesting texture, not unlike the soft and gooey center of jelly beans. They make you savor them slowly - these sweet satisfying nibbles - a couple at a time.

Have I mentioned that sweet dumplings are a popular dessert choice for family gatherings and special occasions such as birthday or wedding banquets; I imagine you wouldn't be surprised by that.  You might also know that it has to do with the round shapes of the dumplings.  They symbolize union and togetherness in Chinese culture.

Which makes sweet dumplings everyone's sentimental favorites, myself and my family included. Many thanks to Bonnie and Roy for sharing this recipe!

Take a look at our other Chinese recipes: Lion's Head Meatballs, Marbled Tea Eggs, and Chicken and Mushroom Rice.

Sweet Mini Dumpling Soup

Serves 3 to 4

3/4 cups glutinous rice flour
1/3 cup warm water for dough
4 cups water for soup
2 pieces rock sugar, or more to taste
3-4 tablespoon dried sweet osmanthus flower 桂花 (available at tea vendors)
1 egg (beaten)
2-3 tablespoon fermented rice 酒釀 (optional)

1. Use a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add in glutinous rice flour. Drizzle in half of the warm water and use fingers to stir and moisten the ingredients. Then gradually work in the remaining liquid, a little at a time, kneading the dough until it's firm yet soft and smooth.

2. To shape the dumplings, work with half of the dough at a time and cover the other half with a moist dishtowel to prevent drying. Roll the dough into a long log and roll small dumplings out of 1/4 inch long pieces of the log. Keep dumplings under towel.

3. Fill a saucepan with water and rock sugar and bring to boil. Drop mini dumplings in. After 1 minute, add sweet osmanthus. Continue to cook until dumplings float. Taste the soup and add more rock sugar if necessary. Slowly stir in the beaten egg. Then turn off the fire. Stir in fermented rice if used. Divide soup and dumplings into small bowls and serve.

From our partner: LO+JUNE

From our partner: LO+JUNE
Artisanal French products in our Swiss fine food boutique