How to make Chinese rice balls in few steps

When we meet at the first full moon of the year…

Hello, my friends,

I hope you enjoyed my previous Taiwanese minced pork rice recipe, I decided to share more Asian food recipes on the blog! It’s been the thing in my mind for a very long time, and this year, I feel it is the time, just feel so right and full of motivation to make it good! Maybe I can say this is a new year’s resolution of mine, and I am curious to know what yours are? 🙂

Today, I would like to share the easiest recipe! I know some of my old posts, especially those Chinese mooncakes may take a little bit more time, and it could feel dissuasive especially for beginners. However, I promise today is by far the least effort that can making with kids and would instantly warm your hearts! it’s the sweet rice ball 元宵!

Since the first lunar month is called Yuan元-month and people called night Xiao宵. The first full moon shows up in the night on the 15th of the month. Yuánxiāo became the name of the day. ” 元宵節 Yuánxiāo jié” also known as the Lantern Festival which marks the end of the new year celebration. (yep, 15 days in concept but not in reality, people still have to go to work after day 6.)

A little background for rice balls soup and lantern festival:

In ancient times, Yuánxiāo was a big celebration, poets wrote some of the poems about this day since it’s not only the day for families reunion, enjoy the rice balls soup, and play the “riddle game”, which were written on the lanterns, but also there was a little bit of a romantic atmosphere on that night.

There was no official Valentine’s day in ancient China, the Lantern Festival is the closest one and it is very tied to traditional ideals of society. Young girls and lovers have excuses to go out on the street to “enjoy” the lantern festival, socialize with friends, and meet the lovers under the moonlight with red lanterns surrounded. There is one famous quote from a poem by Xin Qiji 


in translation:

“In the search of the right one from the crowd for hundreds and thousand times. when you suddenly turned around, you realized the right one was just standing under the dim light of lanterns.” 

Maybe the celebrative and cheerfulness of New Year’s makes the night extraordinary, or maybe the full moon makes the night ultra poetic. I certainly wanted to travel back to the ancient times just for this!

Although these activities have faded some as time goes by, the paper lanterns replaced by the giant electric lanterns and the riddle game was completely gone, what survives is the rice ball soup! 

Let’s make it together!

Simplified version Rice balls 18  dim 3X3 cm

Serve 2-6 people, cooking time: approximately: 8-10 mins


For the crust:

Hot water 160CC

Glutinous rice flour 200g (I bought mine from a local Asian supermarket)

For fillings: 

Note- choose either one from these popular options can make 9 rice balls

  1. If you can get fresh peanuts or black sesame then grinding it into powder will get you the best flavors, if not, premade ones are fine too! 
  2. the unsalted butter decides the density of the filling, the more butter you add, the juicy it gets. 

Opt 1: Peanut powder 60g

           Unsalted butter, room temperature 30-35g

           Confessional sugar 25g

Opt 2: Red bean paste (premade) 160g

Opt 3: Black Sesame powder 60g

            Unsalted butter room temperature 30-35g

            Confessional sugar 25g


  1. Starting with fillings first, add the unsalted butter and sugar into the powder, mix them all together, and divide them into 9 firm balls. 
  2. Prepare a mixing bowl, add the Glutinous rice flour, make a hole in the middle, add half the hot water, shove the flour into the middle, mix the flour and water, then add the other half of the water, mix them well and form it into a big dough. Please be very careful not to burn your fingers, you can wait a bit until it’s cooling down
  3. The dough may be too dry (crumbling) or too wet depending on the brand of the flour and your microclimate. If it was too dry, please add a little bit more water, if it was too wet, add a little bit more flour. Make sure your dough and mixing bowl are clean and shining, which means you got the best result. the texture will very much make you feel like you are playing with fondant or play-dough!
  4. Divide your dough into 18 balls, take one of the balls, and roll it into a flat circle. put one of your fillings in the middle, then wrap it well. make sure there are no holes or cracks, it may cause the whole rice ball broken when boiling.
  5. After the 18 balls are done, lay flat on a dish or baking pan then store in the fridge for at least half an hour, so the crust can be harden.
  6. Boiling two pots of water. One for cooking the rice balls, only when the water is boiled, cook the rice balls until it floating, then turn heat to small, close the lid, cook for about 8-10 mins, during this period, open the lid and adding ½ cup cold water, close the lid, wait a bit, then repeat it again. Suggesting to cook in a bigger pot, or cook batch by batch, the rice balls have the tendency of “dancing” a lot in hot water. and may stick on each other or on the bottom of the pot, so you have to keep your eyes on it, stir it gently if needed.
  7. The other pot of water can be less, it’s for the soup, the classic one is to boil the water then add brown sugar and a few slices of ginger. It’s really optional to make a flavored soup, you can even just use any type of hot milk to replace. this time I made brown sugar soup and topped it with dried rose petals. Now you are ready to serve!

P.S: Rice balls can be stored in a container for up to three days, but I suggest eating them fresh. stored in fridge too long may cause cracks.

So there you are, you have one of the most popular desserts on the table!

The filling is so sweet and smooth just melt in your mouth, the ginger sugar soup brings up another layer of texture to the rice balls. A ball is just the ultimate shape in university, it’s shining, chowry, representing the full moon and the reunion with your loved ones. It makes you feel good about that kind of dessert. Comforting yet poetic!

I had no idea rice balls were this easy to make! admittedly I thought it was hard and never thought of making my own until this year. 

Even though rice balls are easy to make, rarely people make them at home in Taiwan, so there we have many popular premade options on the market, or specialize stores for it! Also, people love them so much, throughout the year, you can have it anytime you want, not only limited to certain celebrations.

Rice balls can be made with or without fillings. Yes, if you just want to have the simplest way, you can even skip the fillings, just make 5 times the amount of small white rice balls with sugar ginger soup. Rice balls are as popular and versatile as it gets, they even have different versions  such as deep-frying, or salty-filling options (another one of my favorites!) 

I am going to save the pork version next time! I wish you had enjoyed today’s sharing. 

Happy lantern festival! 

Follow me @gabbie_arciniegas  & @betterthanauthentic on Instagram or sign up for the newsletter of the blog! you will get a notification of a new post here!