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Ningbo Dumpling with Leaf Fat Filling
2017-02-28Text Size: A A A

  In Ningbo, as in all China, sweet dumpling (Tangtuan) is a symbol of family reunion and happiness and in Ningbo it is a local custom for all family members to have dumplings on the morning of the first day of the lunar year.

Tangtuan is also named Yuanxiao, which originated from the Sui Dynasty. On the Lantern Festival of 610, Emperor Yang entertained his courtiers and concubines with Tangtuan soup. As it was on the Lantern Festival, the food was called Yuanxiao (Lantern Festival). When Tangtuan was introduced to Ningbo, locals used glutinous rice flour to make it and stuffed it with leaf fat, which tasted even more delicious.

Folklore has it that when Lu Tungpin, one of the Eight Taoist Immortals, turned into an old peddler, was selling Tangtuan by the West Lake, Xu Xian bought it. When he was eating it, one Tangtuan ball rolled into the lake and was swallowed by the White Snake, who turned into an immortal afterwards. Later, the White Snake and Xu Xian got married. A story also goes that when foreigners came into Ningbo after the Opium War, they were amazed at the delicious Tangtuan but had no idea how the filling got into the ball.  

 Ningbo has a history of 700 years in the production of tangtuan. It is made of glutinous rice, with a nickname “suspended pulp tangtuan”. When making, people first use 50 kilos of glutinous rice, ground into pulp, suspended in a cloth bag for dripping. When it is no longer sticky, it is used to make the dumplings. The dumplings thus made is thin-skinned, smooth, white and shiny, glutinous but not sticky. The filling is made with leaf lard and sesame powder, mixed with sugar. When being boiled, the dumplings float, a little cold water is added, that will end the process of making. In the old times, dumplings could be eaten only during spring festival. This made people long for this delicacy, especially the children.

However, to enjoy the most delicious Tangtuan, one has to go to Gang Ya Gou sweet food buffet, as saying goes: "Home-made dumplings are common things, but nothing is better than the dumplings in Gang Ya Gou," a time-honored brand in Ningbo.

 “Gang Ya Gou” (water vat, sheldrake and dog), founded by Jiang Dingfa in 1926, is a hundred-year-old shop in Ningbo, famous for its snacks. Jiang Dingfa’s childhood name was Agou (namely a dog), so he was called Jiang Agou. When he opened a snackbar on the Kaiming Street he had a water vat, a sheldrake and a dog painted on the billboard to attract clients. This logo worked and people flocked to his snackbar, and then his business expended and prospered. A   popular ditty goes as follows: At three or four you are starving, go to Gang Ya Gou for leaf lard dumpling; All the money spent and you do not want to leave, take off your clothes as deposit you beg continuing.

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