Fan Tuan – Luscious Taiwanese Rice Balls

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Fantuan is just another Chinese delicacy we are bringing to you today. Sushi Fans will love it readily, as it shares many similarities in its use of rice. Fan Tuan is basically a sticky rice roll which is served popularly in Taiwan and mainland China and is enjoyed by the locals as Taiwanese rice balls.

Sweet rice is just the one thing Fan Tuan is famous for, its savory fillings worth all the mentions here. Over the text of this article, we will discover how this simple Taiwanese breakfast dish reached to other parts of the worlds and in how many ways you can enjoy the best of Fan Tuan Flavors.

In Taiwan, sticky rice rolls are another regular morning meal which is served at every street cart in large bamboo bowls or buckets. If you ever get to visit Taiwan, the taste of freshly made Fan Tuan will not make you forget the streets of that place.

This dish is not just associated with the Chinese menu, but it has evolved with an entire culture of its own. It takes you back to the days where people used to hang out in streets, talking about people and problems while sharing some chants and laughter. Time has therefore left more value to this savory delight.

FanTuan Rice balls

Rice balls are called ‘Fan Tuan’ in Mandarin and in Taiwan. These balls are oblong in shape made out of sticky rice layer on the outside and a special stuffing on the inside.

Traditionally, the wrap of sticky rice used to be further wrapped by salted radish or pickled mustard leaves or sometimes lotus leaves; these extra wrappings were there to add more flavor to the Tuan. But today, for ease and convenience, the balls are simply wrapped using a plastic sheet.

Fan Tuan is a popular breakfast in the Da’an District of Taipei- the capital of Taiwan. Inside the city, you can spot a Fan Tuan vendor from miles away because of the long lines people around the place. Many big places like Liu Mama Fan Tuan had to make three different sections to serve Fan Tuan to all the people coming to the place.

There is not just one type of Fan Tuan that you can serve and satisfy the people with, several varieties and flavors of the recipe make it a not so simple dish today.

Eleven different ways to Enjoy Fan Tuan:

Well, dozens of options are still good news for the foodies like us. Taiwanese sticky rice balls are made in a variety of different styles by just changing the inside filling. Here are eleven popular varieties of Fan Tuan which are enjoyed in different parts of Taiwan.

1. Traditional: This is the traditional Fan Tuan recipes, made out of sticky rice, pickled mustard green, radish, cruller, braised egg, and pork floss. The rice is spread over the greens in a thin, compact layer then it is topped with egg, pork, and Then the rice is rolled by rolling the mustard greens. Pork floss is dried meat which is cooked by dehydration process. Eggs are braised in a salty soy sauce.

2. For Sweet Tooth: Sweet Fan Tuan can be served well as a snack or a dessert. The recipe is simple. All it takes is white sticky rice, brown sugar and cruller. People who love to enjoy something sweet in the morning find this variety of Fan Tuan extremely useful.

First spread the layer of the rice then stuff it with brown sugar and cruller at the center. Using cruller adds an extra crunch to the balls. Serve it with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning.

3. Egg Rolls: Egg roll Fan Tuan differs slightly in its recipe from the original ones. It some extra ingredients along with an egg wrap. It requires sticky rice, greens, radish, braised egg, cruller, fish floss, scallions and egg wrap. The combination is more than perfect for the breakfasts as it has everything, we look for a kicking start of the day.

It is first prepared like any other Fan Tuan, and then egg cooked with scallions is wrapped around the mustard greens layers. This additional layer adds both the appeal and plenty of macronutrients like proteins. You can also sprinkle some spices on top of the balls to infuse a better taste.

4. Bacon Stuffed: Use of bacon in Fan Tuan adds an extra crisp to the recipe. Bacon lovers will fall for this variety of the sticky rice balls. They are made of out same old ingredients including sticky rice, mustard greens, pickled radish, fish floss, braised egg, and cruller.

Before you add bacon to the filling, make sure to sauté it well until brown and crispy in a pan. You can drizzle some salt and pepper while sautéing to add a little flavor to the bacon. Once seared, place the bacon in a plate lined with paper towel to absorb all of its extra fats.

5. Minced Pork with Burdock Root: There is another way to enjoy some pork in a Fan Tuan, it is with Burdock root. Not only pork floss is used in the recipe, but a sautéed minced pork mixture is also added to the stuffing. The combination is rich and consists of sticky rice, pork floss, cruller, minced pork, radish, braised egg, mustard greens, pickled Burdock root, and seaweed wrap.

The burdock roots have strong ginger-like the taste, and it is cut into slivers to be added in the filling. The flavor of pickled burdock complements well the taste of minced pork. Make sure to season the minced pork while you sauté it.

6. Purple Rice Original: Savory Fan Tuan, can be made more delicious and inspiringly appealing by using purple rice layer. These Fan Tuan are again the traditional rice rolls; the locals enjoy more often. It has sticky purple rice in the recipe instead of white sticky rice. The layer is followed by pickled radish then mustard greens, egg, pork floss and finally the cruller.

Purple rice is really good for the health as per the Chinese food experts, and they hold significance in Chinese medicinal philosophy. It is good especially for women, as it contains a good number of essential vitamins and minerals. This rice is full of anti-oxidants which are great for skin. Texture wise, purple rice is as sticky as the white rice.

7. Purple Kimchi and Pork: Kimchi is used popularly in many of the Asia dishes, especially in the Korean Cuisine. It is the fermented product of vegetables like cabbage. Fan Tuan with kimchi also sounds It is stuffed inside the purples rice layer along with minced pork, radish, mustard greens, egg, pork floss and cruller at last. These balls are stuffed with a good proportion of pork and kimchi for a filling texture.

8. Tuna and Corn: You will be amazed at the variety of the ingredients used in this type of Fan Tuan. It is made out of the white sticky rice, egg, pork floss, minced pork, radish, greens, egg, and seaweed wrap; there are two additional ingredients which makes this recipe even more delicious and those are corn and tuna.

This Fan Tuan can cost some extra bucks of course but its good taste totally worth the expense. Make sure to drain the tuna before adding it to the stuffing, and the same goes for the tin packed corn kernels.

9. Spicy Chicken: Here is the Fan Tuan, which people order the most within Taiwan or outside it. Those of you don’t really enjoy eating red meat can switch to this particular option. It has a tangy chicken filling. The chicken fillet is first cooked with desired spices in a sauté pan, and then it is sliced. You can also stuff the rice roll with the full fillet. It is completely up to you.

To make the outer layer thicker, double layers of white and purple sticky rice are used in these balls. Rest of the ingredients are same as any of the traditional Fan Tuan recipe.

10. Cheese: We cannot imagine a world where a recipe does not have any of the cheese variety. Well, luckily Fan Tuan is also prepared using a cheese shred. The idea is simple, add cheese of your choice to the rice ball stuffing.

For these balls, white sticky rice, radish, greens, egg, pork floss, and cruller are used in a perfect combination along with the cheese. For a rich taste, you can add shredded cheddar, Parmesan or mozzarella can also be used, however.

11. Five-Grain Vegan: These Fan Tuan rice balls are not made out of any meat or meat floss in it. rather it is an all vegan recipe. It has five-grain rice instead of white sticky ones. And the rice is stuffed with mustard greens, bean curd, carrots, radish, or vegan meat like tofu.

You can sauté the tofu in a pan along with your favorite spice, salt, and black pepper preferably. Add tofu slices to the stuffing. You can also sauté carrots with the tofu is desired, else fresh carrot slices also taste delicious in the rice balls.

The Famous Taiwanese Fan Tuan Recipe

It’s about time that we start making the famous Taiwanese Fan Tuan. With this recipe, you would not need to visit an all Chinese restaurant.

Just to be clear, the recipe shared here is the traditional Fan Tuan, which is prepared out the basic Tuan ingredients. But you can make your favorite variety, as discussed above, by adding the required ingredients like minced pork, spicy chicken, cheese, purple rice or carrots or tofu. Or you can also try all the varieties in a single platter by changing the stuffing of every rice ball you make. Just make sure that your rice is sticky enough to carry the filling inside.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 1 cup sweet rice
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 pieces of Chinese fried dough
  • 1 cup pork sung
  • ½ cup finely chopped Chinese preserved vegetable
  • Chopped cilantro and scallion
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

Use a rice cooker to cook the short grain rice and sweet rice. Simply add water and rice to the cooker and cook them on sweet rice settings or any settings suitable to your cooker. The rice should full be fully cooked until they are al dente, a bit firm but chewy of course.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the remaining material for the Fan Tuan. Toast the Chinese fried dough in a skillet until it becomes crispy. Once the rice is cooked, scoop ½ of them out on a sushi rolling mat, lined with plastic wrap.  Spread the rice in a thin yet compact layer. Use wet hands to press the rice well against the plastic sheet.

Avoid making it thin.

Now add a piece of toasted Chinese fried dough to the center of the rice layer and add half of the pork sung and Chinese vegetables. Here you can sprinkle cilantro, scallions and sesame seeds on top of the filling. Now start rolling up the rice layer into a compact roll. Do this by rolling the sushi mat, at the end press the mat to ensure the rice ball is compact enough. Repeat the steps and make another rice ball.

Once prepared, slice the Fan Tuan rice balls and serve as a delicious breakfast.

Conclusion

Who would have imagined that Taiwan’s finest delicacy can be that simple and quick to make? Adding Fan Tuan to the menu is like bringing Taiwanese culture to your home, that is how significant this recipe is. With so many epic varieties available, there is no reason to say NO to this one.

Start with the basic recipe and enjoy all of its traditional flavors and then explore all of its other varieties and share the recipe with your friends and family. Fan Tuan rice balls are full of essential nutrients and are indeed the best breakfast anyone can ever think of.

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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