Taiwanese Dongzhi Festival 冬至節

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Also known as Winter Solstice Festival 

The 22nd of October 2011 is a very special day for all yellow folk. Dongzhi Festival, also known as the Winter Solstice Festival, is a very important festival and is celebrated around the December 22 (when it’s mid-winter) when the sun is at its weakest and daylight shortest. In different countries and cities, people celebrate this day differently.

sweet tung yuan soup, firm tofu, calamari and bean pods

Traditionally, in Taiwan, people gather to celebrate with their families and make “tung yuan” 湯圓 which are gluten-free glutinous rice balls, pink and white ones in a savoury or sweet dish and it symbolises reunion. Other dishes include hearty and tonic soups, such as soups with rice wine or herbal soups – reason being that winter is usually the period in which your body is least active and without much exercise, you’ll need to eat well to nourish your body (similar to what animals do before hibernation).

The Dongzhi festival’s origins can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy, basically bringing about balance and harmony to the cosmos. After the celebration, duration of daylight increases, creating positive energy.

stir-fried cabbage, stewed pork belly and egg, Taiwanese king fish steak and rice wine chicken soup

Being Taiwanese, we celebrate this day with family. Since we’re spending majority of our time with our family friends in Dajia District in Taichung (Central Taiwan), we celebrated it with them. We went to uncle Hsu’s parents’ home and had a huge meal! In the pictures below you’ll be able to see what dishes were on the table. Uncle Hsu is my papa’s friend and his family has been kind enough to take us around Taichung.

Uncle Hsu’s mama prepared all the food before we arrived and she, I have to say, is a brilliant cook! Although, as a non-drinking family, my sister didn’t realise how much rice wine was added into the one soup. Jasmine drank half a small bowl, became red (known as Asian flush) and passed out for half an hour on their couch.

All the pictures provided are the dishes Uncle Hsu’s mama made for Dongzhi Festival.

savoury tung yuan soup, garlic chive stir-fry, Taiwanese herbal chicken soup

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2 Responses

  1. Karen
    | Reply

    ooohh always wanted to try make Tany Yuan, I first saw the recipe here http://www.fadaboutfood.com/2010/01/belated-tang-yuan-post.html

    Do you know where I can find pandan leaves in cape town? Or if they can be substituted with something else?

    • Ming-Cheau
      | Reply

      That’s very cool 🙂 Well, it depends on the area you’re from. From my hometown, Tainan, we only used sugar and water to make the soup, whereas Taichung, which is more towards the centre of Taiwan uses ginger in the soup. Tung yuan is also traditionally only pink and white. I’ve eaten tung yuan my whole life and it’s always been tung yuan and sweet soup alone, or with other delicious things like sweet red beans, sweet boiled peanuts, job’s tears and more.

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