Here's to a nice, round year

Just before the Christmas-New Year week rolled around, we had another reason to celebrate - the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival. As a kid, my favourite part of the festival was the making of the glutinous rice balls. Always done just before bedtime the night before, we would gather in the kitchen, large round stainless steel dishes laid out, and proceed to shape the balls out of different coloured rice flour.

"Make sure it's nice and round!"

I remember my mum telling us how the shape of the ball would signify the coming year, and how we would want the new year to have a good beginning and end, nice and complete, a beautiful full circle.

I always had plain, fillingless rice balls growing up and was only introduced to the filled ones a little later in life. The balls, nicely arranged on the stainless steel dishes, would be placed into the refrigerator until the next morning when I would wake up to the delicious aroma of ginger and pandan leaves simmering in the kitchen. Then, gathered in the kitchen once again, we'd dig into our bowls of delighfully soft and sweet rice balls, picking out the ones we think we made.

This year, in the midst of exam preperations and Moroccan visa issues, I decided that we absolutely couldn't do without those glutinous rice balls. We cheated a little by picking up frozen ones at the Oriental Supermarket but kept a little of home by cooking them in the sweet ginger-pandan syrup we all know and love.

"For good luck", I told my housemates, as I served up the rice balls to each one of them.

We had many, many servings of glutinous rice balls that day - peanut filled and black sesame filled. 2011 looks to be a big year - and I'm definitely hoping it would be a nice, round one.

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