Oh, Maqiu: Mistaking a Winter Solstice Treat for Tangyuan – Pub’d on China Daily

Last week, China Daily just published my latest column titled Oh, maqiu: Mistaking a winter solstice treat for tangyuan. Here’s an excerpt from that column:

All those years, I had it all wrong about maqiu, a traditional winter solstice food for my husband Jun’s family in rural Zhejiang province.

Whenever Jun mentioned the sesame balls he had eaten for the holiday while growing up, I had always imagined a version of tangyuan, those delicious glutinous rice balls stuffed with sweet sesame or red bean paste typically enjoyed in southern China. Except, he called them sesame balls or maqiu, not tangyuan. So I thought, maybe maqiu was just another name for tangyuan in the local dialect?

But then years ago, one night before winter solstice with Jun’s family, I watched my mother-in-law prepare maqiu in her kitchen and did a double take. She dropped inch-sized balls of glutinous rice dough, made from glutinous rice flour and cold water, straight into a wok of boiling water without tucking anything inside. Had she lost her mind? Where was the muss and fuss of filling the dough with sesame paste that I’d had to slog through all those years before, when Jun and I used to live in the United States?

Once the rice balls floated to the top, which took only a few minutes, she fished them out of the boiling water and then rolled them in a sweet mixture of toasted black sesame seeds and white sugar that coated every inch of the dough. That’s when I realized it-it was my mistake, not hers.

Read the full column here. And if you like it, share it!

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