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Tangyuan time

First suggested by Scouts of China
Celebrate the winter solstice with these simple Taiwanese treats.

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You’ll need

  • Bowls
  • Spoons
  • Knives
  • Kitchen scales
  • Pans
  • Stoves and fuel
  • Ingredients (see below)

Before you begin

  • This is a great activity to run during an online session. Check out the advice on using Zoom and other popular digital platforms and the guidance on being safe online.
  • If you’re not sure how to cook over Zoom, check out our top tips. Don’t forget to give people plenty of notice to get their ingredients and equipment ready.
  • It’s up to you where you do this activity – you could take the recipe and make it work however you’re meeting at the moment, whether that’s online or face-to-face indoors or outdoors.
  • Dongzhi, the winter solstice festival, is celebrated on or around December 22 each year. It’s the shortest day and longest night of the year – from then on, the days get lighter again in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Many people in Taiwan gather to celebrate the festival with their families. They make and eat red and white tangyuan (rice balls), which symbolise reunion and a peaceful new year.
  • This festive food is a reminder that everyone’s a year older and should behave better in the coming year. Even today, many insist that they’re ‘a year older’ right after the Dongzhi festival, instead of waiting till the lunar new year.


Make tangyuan (湯圓)


  • 200g sweet rice flour
  • 100g warm water
  • 60g cold water
  • Food colouring or matcha, turmeric, or sesame (optional)
  • Brown sugar (optional)

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Serves: 2

  1. Put the rice flour into a bowl and stir in the warm water.
  2. Pour in the cold water and stir the mixture well until it forms a dough.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands. If it’s too soft, add more flour; if it’s too hard, add water.
  4. If you’re making different coloured tangyuan, take some of the dough, add colour, and knead it till the colour has spread evenly.
  1. Next, turn the dough out onto the table and roll it into long strips.
  2. Use the knife to cut it into small pieces and roll them into a ball shape.
  1. Fill a pan with water and heat it up. When the water’s boiling, add the balls. Don’t forget to stir them so they don’t stick to the bottom of your pan.
  2. Cook the tangyuan until they float on the water.
  3. If you want to, make a simple sweet soup to serve the tangyuan using brown sugar and water.
  4. Try the tangyuan. Take it in turns to share facts about Dongzhi or thoughts about how the tangyuan taste.


This activity was all about being an international citizen, and trying something new. Everyone shared some Taiwanese treats as well as some facts and information about food and festivals in Taiwan. Had anyone heard of the Dongzhi festival before? Had anyone tried tangyuan? What did everyone think of the tangyuan, were they like they expected? Were they easy or difficult to prepare? You could think about how many festivals, celebrations, and foods exist across the world. There are probably lots of foods that people haven’t tried yet.

In Taiwan, people share tangyuan with their families and friends as they gather to celebrate the winter solstice. Challenge everyone to share their tangyuan with whoever they’re with when they make them. They could share some of the things they’ve learned about Taiwan or just spend some time together to check in or reflect on the year ahead.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.

Fires and stoves

Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.


Remember to check for allergies, eating problems, fasting or dietary requirements and adjust the recipe as needed. Make sure you’ve suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods. Take a look at our guidance on food safety and hygiene.

You can change the size and number of tangyuan you make, and also experiment with different natural colourings to see who can make the most colourful bowl.

Don’t forget to check for any allergies or dietary requirements before the session. Help people figure out alternatives if they can’t have any of the ingredients.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Why not challenge everyone to do some research into another international food and culture and prepare a dining experience for their friends or families.