September 29, 2004

moon-viewing dumplings without the moon

Tuesday, September 28

For the Mid-Autumn Festival, they have mooncakes in the Chinese culture. In Japan, they traditionally often have tsukimi dango, or red bean paste-filled rice dumplings for viewing the moon.

To tell you the truth, I don't like those dango, because I just don't like red bean paste. So it might have been strange that I suddenly felt like making some dango myself, but I actually made dango filled with black sesame. That is whole another thing.

A week ago or so I came across this recipe (in Japanese) for black sesame dumplings in lime syrup, a dessert served at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo (which I have never been to). I was instantly tempted to try to make them, but I didn't have sweet rice flour at hand, and came to forget about it until recently when I saw pictures of tsukimi-dango all over in blogs from Japan. So I decided to take this opportunity to go buy sweet rice flour and make some dango.

First I made the black sesame filling by mixing black sesame paste, sugar, and butter. I also added a pinch of salt to enhance the sweetness. It was just a matter of mixing everything together well, and after a few minutes I put the bowl of paste in the freezer to harden the filling so that it would be easier to divide and make into balls.

Meanwhile I prepared the syrup and the dumpling dough. Everything went fine and here came the fun part - filling dumplings. I am such a poorly skilled cook when it comes to filling/stuffing things, unfortunately. Well I managed to make them into individual balls of irregular shapes, trying to make sure the filling is completely covered, and cooked them in nearly-boiling water.

The recipe suggested that we should have the dessert while the dumplings are warm and the filling inside is melted (well, the dumpling dough will harden as it cools, so it is better eaten warm anyways). I finished the syrup for which I made some changes in the recipe to my taste, by replacing half the water with sparkling wine and adding a lot more lime juice (the amount of lime juice specified in the recipe seemed to me just way too little - 2g of lime juice in 100g of water, what is that??). I assembled the dumpling and syrup topped with a half-moon slice of a lime (I should have left the slices as a full moon for the full-moon watching, shouldn't I?) in the glasses. Here we go.

The dumplings were extremely good, or so I thought. Both black sesame and lime have always been my favorite ingredients for dessert, but I never paired the two. It turned out that the rich, dense taste of black sesame paste is contrasted by tart lime juice, putting some zing in the glass. Sparkling wine added a nice, subtle touch to it, too. I like plain black sesame dumplings, but this a little sophisticated version sure made a lovely treat.

The glasses are my aunt's souvenirs from Okinawa. Each of the pair of hand-crafted glasses came with a coaster and a small figure of Shiisa, or a lion-dog symbol of Okinawa, both in the color matching to the glass.

By the way, the moon-viewing in the evening was hopeless over here - it was rainy as always. But when I woke up in the middle of the night, at around 3 o'clock, the rain had stopped and the moon was ever so shiny, even through the thick clouds.

I wish I had been able to take a better shot, but oh well.


zbjernak said...

hi there, just so happen browse here...
do u have omochi?
i love omochi....

obachan said...

You had a better luck than we did here--- at least you saw the moon. I ate tsukimi dango hearing the pouring rain.

chika said...

Hi there,

zbjernak - yeah, I like mochi too!

obachan - I'm sorry you guys have had a whole lot of typhoon this summer... I guess you're right, I had a better luck in terms of watching the moon part, even if the rest of the day had been all the way rainy!

Anonymous said...


I have never tried dumplings in lime syrup..

I would like to try my hands on making them... but i can't read japanese!!
would you be kind enough to translate the japanese recipe for me?



Posted by shirley

Pinkity said...

The ones we have in Chinese cooking is something like that. The dango in ginger soup. To get the ginger tea, boil old ginger and rock sugar together until the flavour of the ginger is in the soup. :)

I'm not the best cook but I absolutely love the tong yuen . (that's what it's called in Chinese) :) 

Posted by p|nk

Melissa said...

This is such a tease! I finally find that you have a recipe section and no recipe! I am becoming more and more enchanted by your blog!