February 14, 2014 is not your usual Valentine’s Day, because it also marks the rare occurrence of the Western holiday of Valentine’s Day and the Chinese holiday of the Lantern Festival (元宵节, yuánxiāojié) on the same day (which happens every 19 years).
Then again, in a sense, weren’t these holidays meant to be together? In China some have dubbed the Lantern Festival the real Chinese Valentine’s Day. In the past, unmarried women were not allowed to freely leave their homes. But during the Lantern Festival, they had the chance to come out with chaperones and enjoy the lanterns in public, a wonderful opportunity to meet potential romantic partners as well.
Still, I see this meeting of the two holidays as a perfect symbol of Chinese-Western cross-cultural relationships — and definitely worth celebrating in a special way! The question remains, how?
Besides the usual chocolates and roses, here in China people have decided to add a little Valentine’s Day flare to one of the Lantern Festival’s favorite treats: tangyuan. Instead of the traditional sesame or red-bean paste fillings, people are opting for rose-flavored tangyuan or chocolate tangyuan (yum!). If you’re in China, head to your local supermarket! If not, scroll down — I’ve translated a couple of recipes from online (warning: I’ve yet to try either, so attempt at your own risk!).
For me, there’s something so irresistibly romantic about light displays in the wintertime (I always loved going out with my family to enjoy the Christmas lights in Cleveland, Ohio). That’s why the perennial lantern displays all around China — and other parts of the world — could be that perfect after-dinner activity with your date or spouse. No lanterns? Consider creating your own simple version (like this) or try a Western take on the holiday by stringing up some Christmas lights (especially if you have strings of red) around the house.
How will you celebrate this unusual concurrence of the Lantern Festival and Valentine’s Day?
Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Lantern Festival! 祝你门情人节和元宵节快乐！
Translated from this original recipe (which includes excellent photos as a guide). Like my mother-in-law’s cooking, this is an intuitive recipe. No exact amounts are provided, so use your judgment and palate to guide you!
Glutinous rice flour (sold in Chinese supermarkets)
Dried edible roses
1. Wash and then dry out the edible roses, and then remove the stems. Place the petals in a bowl.
2. Add white sugar to the bowl according to taste and preference. Mix the sugar and petals together to create a powder.
3. Add honey according to taste and preference.
4. Mix together the honey and powder to create the rose paste for the tangyuan. Set this aside.
5. Wash the strawberries, then soak them in water with a dash of salt for 15 minutes.
6. Remove the strawberries from the salt water soak and place them in a blender. Whisk the strawberries to create a juice.
7. In a saucepan, heat the strawberry juice until warm.
8. Mix the warm strawberry juice with glutinous rice flour, carefully adding just enough flour until you can knead the dough — but not so much that the dough is too dry and falls apart. Knead the dough into a round shape.
9. To prepare the rose filling, mix a little glutinous rice flour into the rose paste.
10. Take a piece of dough, roll it into a round shape and then flatten it. In the middle of the flattened shape, spoon a small amount of rose paste.
11. Slowly close the dough over the paste, then roll it into a round tangyuan shape.
12. Boil the tangyuan until they float. Remove and serve in a bowl.
1. To give the tangyuan a more romantic pink color, I used strawberry juice in the tangyuan. It not only gives the tangyuan a slight pink color but also adds that sweet, fragrant strawberry flavor.
2. By warming the strawberry juice before mixing it with the flour, the dough is more soft and also will be less likely to split open during the process of rolling the tangyuan. No need to boil the strawberry juice, just heat until warm.
3. When adding the honey to the rose paste I added a little more and the mixture was too watery, so I later added glutinous rice flour to the paste to make it easier to fill the tangyuan.
4. Don’t add too much filling, otherwise the tangyuan will easily leak.
5. If it is too difficult for you to create the tangyuan, just directly mix the rose paste and the dough together, roll into balls and then boil them. It’s also delicious!
Romantic Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tangyuan
Translated from this recipe, which includes photos to guide you.
400 grams glutinous rice flour
52 grams of Dove-brand chocolates
180 grams of non-gluten flour (such as rice flour)
1. Prepare the dragonfruit.
2. Remove the peel from the fruit, then slice the peel into thin strips.
3. Place the sliced dragonfruit peel into a blender and blend into a juice.
4. Using a filter to filter out the impurities, pour the juice into a bowl. Set aside.
5. Add the non-gluten flour to a new bowl, then pour in boiled water and quickly stir it together.
6. Add the glutinous rice flour.
7. Pour in the dragonfruit juice to the glutinous rice flour and mix together.
8. Even the mixture into a smooth round of dough.
9. Prepare the chocolate.
10. Pound the chocolate into small pieces.
11. Separate the dough into small pieces. Each piece should be moulded into a nest shape.
12. Add a chocolate piece/pieces in the center of the nest, and then fold the dough over and close it up into a round shape.
13. Repeat the process of nesting chocolate into the pieces of dough until all of the tangyuan are finished.
14. Place cold water in a pot and then boil the tangyuan. When the tangyuan float, they are ready to serve.