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Tong Yoon, A Lunar New Year Soup for Wholeness

Hello friends, we had some issues with our website host and couldn't send this recipe via email. And so we are posting it via our blog so you have time to shop for this Lantern Festival (Feb 5!) recipe. All other seasonal recipes will be sent via our newsletter from here on out, but for now please enjoy this recipe and do share it with your friends and family....

There are many dishes to be eaten during the Lunar New Year.  You have likely heard of “long life noodles” or families gathering on the first night to make a never-ending supply of dumplings.  Traditions and special dishes vary from family to family, region to region, culture to culture.  In our household, Chris and I celebrate with an array of dishes, but the one which holds the most meaning for me is “Tang Yuan”, or “Tong Yoon” as we say in my Cantonese family.  Also eaten at the Winter Solstice, Tong Yoon are dumplings made from glutinous rice flour, something more commonly known these days by their Japanese counterpart’s name, “mochi”.  Meant to symbolize the fullness of the first full moon and to appease the God of Fire with his favorite food, Tong Yoon represent family togetherness, wholeness and completeness.  It can be eaten salty or sweet, depending on your preference or your province, but in our house we like to enjoy these supple, chewy dumplings in a clean, savory soup. 

This savory Tong Yoon dish is lightly based on something some of you may know as “West Lake Soup”.  It combines minced beef, shitake mushrooms, eggs and fresh herbs in a thickened broth which shimmers like the surface of a lake.  In the center of the lake sit perfect, whole and complete “tong yoon”, bobbing at the surface.  This soup not only commemorates the Lantern Festival, but also acts as the ideal inter-seasonal dish for this time of year as it is immune boosting, warming and soothing to your digestion.  Do try to make this at the Lantern Festival on February 5th.  It’s easy to make and the preparation of the “tong yoon” will be fun for the entire family, especially kids!  And if you are vegetarian, feel free to omit the beef and fish sauce, and also the egg if vegan. Enjoy this soup with your loved ones or in silent contemplation as you entire the fullness of the first moon of the year.  Gung Hey Fat Choy, Friends!

'Beginning of Spring' Tong Yoon

Serves 3-4

For the Tong Yoon:

1 cup Glutinous rice flour

½ cup Water

For the Soup:

6oz Ground Beef

5 dried Shiitake Mushrooms, chopped

5 cups Water

2 tablespoon Fish Sauce

1 tablespoon Soy Sauce (3 if omitting fish sauce)

½ teaspoon Sea Salt

2 tablespoons Potato Starch, or Corn Starch

2 large Eggs, lightly beaten

2 Green Onions, chopped

1 small bunch Cilantro/Coriander (about 10-12 sprigs), leaves separated, stems reserved and chopped


First, make a stock by soaking the dried mushrooms in the 5 cups of water for a few hours. Then bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for another 10. Remove the mushrooms – reserving the stock – and let them cool a bit, then chop them up.

To make the tong yoon, put the glutinous rice flour in a bowl, then add the water little by little, using chopsticks or a fork to stir it together in a circular motion. Eventually it should be the consistency of a soft clay. If it’s too dry, add more water. If too wet, add more rice flour. Knead the dough briefly until smooth. Sprinkle a little rice flour on a plate. Tear off pieces of dough and roll them into balls the size of a cherry, placing them on the floured plate when done. This will make about 20 tong yoon at this size. Put a slightly damp cloth on top to keep them from drying out.

Pour a shallow amount of water in the bottom of a soup pot. Bring it to a boil and drop in the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon. Let it cook until the beef just changes color, then take it off the heat and drain it in a colander, giving the beef a rinse. This rinses out the scum and blood, which will help to keep the broth clear.

Add the beef back to the pot with half of the chopped mushrooms (use all if you omitted the beef) and the 5 cups of mushroom stock you made. Bring it to a simmer and add the salt, fish sauce and/or soy sauce.

Drop in your tong yoon into the soup one by one, stirring gently all the while so they don’t stick together. Keep simmering until the tong yoon float to the top.

Add some water to the potato starch to make a slurry, then slowly pour it into the soup, stirring continuously. As the soup simmers, you’ll watch it thicken.

Once thickened, slowly pour your beaten eggs in a thin stream into the soup using a spiral motion. Simmer gently for about 30 seconds, then give the soup a stir to lightly break up the eggs.

Turn off the heat and add the chopped green onions, the cilantro stems and half of the cilantro leaves, stirring them in gently.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls and top with some extra cilantro before serving, making sure everyone has an equal amount of tong yoon.

Note: Never give someone 4 tong yoon as the word in Chinese for “4” sounds similar to the word for “death” and is considered bad luck.



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