5-coloured glutinous rice balls in milk soup 五色白玉ミルク

This recipe comes from a book of Japanese autumn & winter wagashi or sweet snacks: 《和果子.和甘味 (秋冬篇)》 (in Chinese and English). The Japanese name for glutinous rice balls is shiratama and glutinous rice flour is shiratamako.

Shiratama round

The five colours are supposed to be white, pink (red rice powder 紅穀粉), green (matcha/ green tea powder), brown (brown sugar) and yellow (pumpkin). As I don’t have red rice powder, I made lavender-coloured ones using purple mountain yam powder 紫山藥粉. I like the fact that only natural colourings are used because artificial additives tend to cause food intolerance reactions for me. [23/12/07 update: read more about natural colourings for glutinous rice dough here.]


Serves 4

100g glutinous rice flour
1 tsp cooked pumpkin flesh [NB: no discernible pumpkin taste in the cooked rice balls]
1 tsp brown sugar [NB: surprisingly doesn’t make the glutinous rice balls that sweet]
1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) [NB: too much, green colour comes out too dark, matcha taste is too strong and bitter]
1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder [NB: the slight medicinal taste might not appeal to everyone; as I noted here, mountain yam is commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicinal food]
300ml milk/soya bean milk/coconut milk
appropriate amount of red (azuki) bean paste

1) Divide the glutinous rice flour into five 20g portions.
2) Mix the cooked pumpkin flesh with 20g glutinous rice flour. I tried to distribute the pumpkin evenly by rubbing it into the flour.
3) Melt the brown sugar in a little bit of warm water. Mix with 20g glutinous rice flour.
4) Mix 1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) with 20g glutinous rice flour.
5) Mix 1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder with 20g glutinous rice flour. This is what the packet of yam powder looks like:

Purple mountain yam powder

6) Mix each portion of flour with just enough warm water to make a dough that can be rolled smoothly. I’ve read some recipes that specify warm water, and Commoi mentions in the comments here that it’s supposed to make the texture of the dough more smooth.

Do use your hands to mix the flour and water so that you can accurately gauge the correct consistency. After my initial problems getting the dough shaped nicely, I’ve realised that If the dough is too soft, it’s difficult to roll into an evenly-rounded shape.

Divide each flavour of dough into four pieces to make four rice balls of each flavour (the photo below shows triple quantities). To divide the dough evenly, I rolled each piece of dough into a strip then put it this chopping sheet with measurements and cut the strip with a pair of scissors into the required number of pieces.

Shiratama uncooked

7) Boil a large pot of water to cook the glutinous rice balls. They are ready when they float to the top. (See my notes on storing the leftover glutinous rice balls here.)

8) Serve in milk soup with a dollop of red (azuki) bean paste. As the red beans and coconut/soya milk were already cool or taken from the fridge, I put the whole dish in the microwave to heat up before serving.

The red beans were cooked without sugar and sweetened to taste when serving, as I did here. In the original recipe, the soup is made from cow’s milk. Instead of this, I made two options: coconut milk (see photo of round-shaped balls above) or soya bean milk (see photo of dented balls below). Both can be sweetened with white sugar to taste when serving.

Notes on making soya bean milk: please follow the instructions from Just Hungry. You can also squeeze the liquid out of the soya bean pulp before cooking and it won’t be so hot and difficult to handle. Then you simply need to bring the liquid to the boil, scooping the foam off the top as you go. One way to take away the raw taste is to add a few pandan leaves when boiling the soya bean milk.

Alternatively, cut down the manual labour of soya bean milk making by using a blender with filter core attachment, or use a soya milk machine.

The Japanese style is to make a dent in the middle of each glutinous rice ball, as shown below. However, for today’s Winter Solstice celebration, round glutinous rice balls are eaten to symbolise family togetherness, so I also made a round version. The shape does make a difference to the ‘mouth feel’ 口感 with the round shape producing a firmer, more chewy (or ‘Q’) version and the flattened, Japanese shape gives a softer yet pleasantly sticky texture.


5 Responses

  1. […] are numerous Southeast Asian desserts that feature a soup of coconut milk. So when I made these Five-Coloured Glutinous Rice Balls, I substituted the cow’s milk with coconut milk for a more fragrant […]

  2. This is such a gorgeous presentation!

  3. Thanks, Commoi! I simply copied the photo in the cookbook :).

  4. It looks perfect!
    Can you help me, please?
    What is the milk soup? How can I make it?
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Hi Vanilla,
      Thanks! The ‘milk soup’ is just coconut milk diluted to taste, or soya bean milk — nothing special :). There are recipes on my blog for making coconut milk and soya bean milk at home, or you can just buy off the shelf.

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