A family reunion is nothing without having tang yuan, 汤圆 (glutinous rice balls) together. It is a tradition for us to roll these small glutinous rice balls a night before the Lunar New Year. We usually cooked them within minutes and served in sweet ginger syrup as a dessert after having steamboat for dinner.

I am constantly on a lookout for natural sweeteners and dairy-free options that will lend a likeness of taste to the traditional black sesame filling, typically mixed with refined sugar and butter. For nutritional reasons, today’s recipe is an alternative and healthier way of making black sesame tang yuan using two trendy superfoods: coconut nectar and coconut oil as replacements.


For this Lunar New Year, I handpicked a tea pot and a couple of bowls from Luzerne’s Rustic Collection below to serve tang yuan. I adore the deep earthy tones and folksy, unblemished finish. Don’t you think they bear some resemblance to ingots? Very warm and auspicious looking amirite?

Luzerne offers a myriad of timeless, modern-day ceramic ware collections of trusting craftsmanship that is scratch resistant and guarantee of being freezer, oven, and microwave safe. I have personally purchased a couple of them ever since the new addition to my kitchen: the oven!

Every penny pays for the quality and assurance. It is crucial to own a safe and sustainable set of everyday plates that adhere to industry standards. Nobody wants to encounter a cracked ceramic ware in the oven and forced to dispose of a well-prepared meal before serving. For myself, I am making an effort to not be wasteful, and by living up to this, a well-made Luzerne ceramic ware can stay in my kitchen for at least 5 years, not just for an occasion, or an every year round of spring cleaning.

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A tropical-scented tang yuan

The tropical-scented black sesame filling has a unique dense, floral flavour, mostly coming from coconut nectar. Coconut nectar is a pure, natural sweetener. It is the sap from the flowers of the coconut tree. So even through boiling and heating, it retains most of the nutritional benefits. We all know that consuming too much refined sugar is a warning red light, so this raw sweetener is a safer alternative for diabetics or anyone who aims to maintain healthier, more consistent blood sugar levels.

More about coconut nectar

  • Low in Glycemic Index. It takes a slower process for sugars to released into bloodstream.

  • Low in frutose, sucrose, glucose

  • High in the polysaccharide inulin, a prebiotic fiber that aids in the process of digestion.

However, coconut nectar is slightly expensive, and I bought it only during a promotion in the supermarket. So option B is to use coconut sugar if you’re making a large batch of tang yuan. Coconut sugar is processed when coconut nectar is undergoes dehydration and crystallisation. Using coconut oil will give you the creamiest tang yuan filling enveloped in delicate, thin corners of the glutinous rice dough. And the fact that it doesn’t turn watery, my attention stays with the distinctive filling longer than I had with runny filling in thick dough.


In all randomness, I boiled ginger, dried osmanthus and some raw honey together for the “syrup” because they are just staples in my kitchen. This sums up the basic black sesame tang yuan made with an extra nourishing touch point!

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If you’re feeling a little adventurous, serve these tang yuan in an ice flower bowl using fresh flowers with a high petal count. The more flowers the merrier! As the bowl is freezer safe, and non-porous, and no water absorption for high stain resistance, the ice flower bowl came out neatly without leaving any cracks after 5 minutes of sitting out in room temperature. Be sure to add cooked tang yuan in it and serve immediately to everyone before they toughened due to the coldness.

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!

Ceramics used:


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  • I recommend working on the ice flower bowl a night before

  • Work with glutinous rice balls at room temperature, not in an air-conditioned area as they tend to toughen and crack faster.

  • Pinch a ball of the glutinous rice ball, drop into boiling water and roll in with the remaining flour makes it pliable to work with and less likely to crack.

  • Dab your fingers with a little of water and roll each glutinous rice ball before putting the filling in to prevent it from cracking.

  • Work on your rice balls only when the filling has hardened. Oil it slightly before adding sealing it with dough.

  • When coconut oil is drizzled over cooked tang yuan to keep them separated, bits of coconut oil will solidify on the surface as they are served in cool sweet osmanthus ginger tea.


Sweet Osmanthus Ginger Tea

  • 1 tbsp dried osmanthus (Hock Hua Tonic)

  • 30g ginger, peeled and cut in chunks

  • 1½ tbsp raw honey

  • 1 litre boiling water


  1. (Making the Black Sesame filling) Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk it till it forms a sticky paste. Roll them into balls of 4g each. Put them in a container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 20 minutes.

  2. (Making the Sweet Osmanthus Ginger Tea) Boil 1-litre water in a saucepan, add dried osmanthus and ginger. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat for 8 minutes. Stir in honey, add more if you like. Sieve ginger and osmanthus, let the tea cool in a bowl.

  3. (Making the glutinous rice balls) In a separate saucepan, boil 1-litre water. While waiting for it to boil, slowly add in warm water (with left hand) to glutinous rice flour in a mixing bowl. Knead (with your right hand) until the dough comes together as a ball. If it’s too dry, add ½ tbsp each time, it should not be too wet and sticky. If it’s too wet, dust a little flour over dough and roll again.

  4. Pinch out 10g of dough, and drop into the boiling water until it floats. Then add this cooked dough back into the mixing bowl, and knead again for the dough to be pliable.

  5. Pinch out 12 balls of approximately 14g each. Set them on plate and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Work with one dough at a time.

  6. Dab your fingers with a little bit of water when you roll each dough. Flatten it between your palms, and pinch around the circumference until about 6 cm. Drizzle a few drops of coconut oil to the black sesame filling, put it on the dough and gently seal it. If the dough cracks when you roll them, dab a little water on it and roll again.  Place each completed glutinous rice ball on a dry clean plate.

  7. (Cooking the rice balls) Bring 1.5 litres of water in a pot to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Put a few glutinous rice balls in a ladle and lay them down each time. Cook till they float and use a slotted spoon to remove them and put them in a bowl with 1 tbsp coconut oil and some water to prevent them from sticking to one another.

  8. Divide cooked glutinous rice balls between bowls and pour sweet osmanthus ginger over to serve.


  1. (Making ice floral bowl): Place a mortar in a large serving bowl. Arrange petals around the mortar facing up. Fill the outer bowl with water and freeze overnight. If you do not have a mortar, you can place any bowl within the large serving bowl, and put in a heavy object to weigh it down.

  2. Take out the large serving bowl from the freezer, wait for 5 minutes. Warm the bowl with your hands, and flip it upside down to remove the ice. Then, slowly pull the mortar out from the ice bowl. Add cooked glutinous rice balls and pour sweet osmanthus ginger tea to serve immediately.

Lots of love,