Sweet Potato Dessert Dumplings with Fennel Pollen Recipe

I dedicate this dessert to my mom.

Sweet potato holds a special place in her heart. Whenever she eats it, she retells how my grandfather would sometimes cook sweet potato in with their rice when she was little.

During the war, rice was scarce and people scrounged for anything that could fill their stomachs. The luckier ones dug up sweet potatoes while the less fortunate were left with tree bark. Although my mom and her siblings did not experience the war, my grandfather continued to feed his family sweet potatoes to remind his children to be thankful always.

One of my mom’s favourite desserts is sweet potatoes simply cooked in a light ginger syrup. She and I also love another traditional Chinese dessert called “tong-yuen” in Cantonese (湯圓/湯丸), or literally “spheres in soup”. They are bite-size glutenous rice dumplings filled with a sweet paste made with savory ingredients such as black sesame, peanut, or red bean. They are served floating in a silky and sweet soup made from ground nuts (almond, walnut, peanut…), in the ginger syrup mentioned above, or rolled in crushed nuts and sesame.

Inspired by my mom, I combined her favourites to create a comforting dessert for this month’s Battle Sweet Potato. In brief, I mashed the purple sweet potato into a smooth paste, added fresh ginger juice, wrapped it in glutenous rice dough, cooked it, rolled it in crushed nuts, and sprinkled on some fennel pollen for fun.


Purple sweet potato is prettier and often sweeter but use whatever you have on hand.

Fennel pollen provides a distinct floral aroma, coaxes out the ginger’s zing, and adds another dimension to the potato’s starchy sweetness. I also love to mix it with honey and drizzle it on top of toast, ice cream, cheesecake, and fruit. Marx Foods offers a high quality one that’s worth every penny.

Sweet Potato Dessert Dumplings with Fennel Pollen and Ginger


    Ginger Sweet Potato Filling

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed. Approx 200 g (6 oz)
  • 1/4 cup ginger juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbs butter, softened
  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 200 g glutenous rice flour (7 oz) and more for dusting
  • cold water

  • 1/2 cup of your favourite nuts, crushed finely with a rolling pin (peanut, almond, cashew…)
  • 1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • fennel pollen



Steam the sweet potato cubes until very tender, around 15 minutes. Alternately, microwave it with some water on high for 5-10 minutes, stirring midway through. Mash the sweet potato into a paste with the remaining ingredients. Pass it through a colander to remove any lumps and fibres. Wrap and chill in the fridge.


Combine the rice flour and 1/4 cup of cold water in a large bowl. Gradually add more water until the dough forms a ball that releases cleanly from the bowl. Knead and punch the dough for 5 minutes. The dough is ready when your fist leaves a solid imprint. Keep covered.

To form the dumplings:

Dust your hands with flour. Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a large grape and roll it into a ball. Flatten it and fill it with 1-2 tsp of filling. Seal the edges tightly while squeezing out air and roll the dumpling back into a sphere. Place onto a pre-dusted baking sheet.

The dumplings can be frozen and stored for 1 month.

To assemble:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the dumplings in and add cold water if necessary to maintain a soft boil. Meanwhile, combine the crushed nuts, sesame, and sugar and place onto a plate.

Once the dumplings float, drain them, plop them onto the nut mixture and roll them until they are fully coated. Fresh dumplings should only take 2-3 minutes to cook while frozen ones will take a few minutes longer.

To serve:

Place the dumpling balls onto spoons or dessert dishes. Sprinkle on fennel pollen and serve immediately.

Makes 2 dozen.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as my mom did! What’s the best food-related story your parents or grandparents have ever told you?

  1. March 07, 2010 by Divina

    Mel, these are fantastic. I love anything with glutinous rice most especially these dumplings and since I’m a huge fan of sweet potatoes, these dessert makes it extra special. And the presentation is awesome too.

  2. March 07, 2010 by penny aka jeroxie

    Those are really pretty and I do love tang yuen as a kid. Great memories from my childhood rolling little tang yuen with my grandma.

  3. March 08, 2010 by Tuty @Scentofspice

    Beautiful little gems. In Indonesia, we have similar glutinous rice dumplings filled with shaved palm sugar, rolled in freshly grated coconut. They are called klepon or onde-onde in Malaysia.
    I like the idea of rolling them in crushed nuts and fennel pollen is certainly unusual.

    Great clicks!

  4. March 08, 2010 by admin

    @Tuty – thanks! I love the sound of shaved palm sugar and coconut. I think all East Asian cultures have a similar dessert with their own variation. I love them all :) sticky, chewy, tender. Thanks for rolling by!

  5. March 08, 2010 by Elizabeth

    Um, hello yummy and exotic! Fennel pollen? That sounds fantastic! This looks like an excellent dessert (I love bite size options!) and might have been a great send up to a month without anything sweet!

  6. March 08, 2010 by catty

    that looks insane. I get so jealous of you people who can just whip something so traditional and amazing together, and give it a modern twist to boot. I am a huge tong yuen fan too.

  7. March 08, 2010 by catty

    by the way I LOVE your fist imprint LOL :) hilarious!

  8. March 08, 2010 by Eleanor Hoh(wokstar)

    Amazing, love dumplings, gorgeous color.

  9. March 10, 2010 by diva

    I should really start making these from scratch rather than buying them from the frozen foods section. And yes, my dad used to tell us to ‘yin shui si yuan’ – think of our past and our roots when we ate sweet potatoes to remember what our grandparents and great grandparents had to go through, through the war and etc. You make me feel like having some of these now and talking to my dad!
    Beautiful filling.

  10. March 11, 2010 by Rose

    Those are beautiful! What a wonderful story about your grandfather.

  11. March 14, 2010 by Debi (Table Talk)

    Such an elegant dessert. Love the colorful center and texture you have going.
    ~ A beautiful tribute to your mom.

  12. March 22, 2010 by Bonita

    Another amazing creative concoction from you! This looks amazing, and the colours are just incredible!!

    By the way, I’m passing along a blogging award to the both of you.

  13. September 11, 2011 by Degan

    omg this sounds amazing. have to make it soon.

  14. September 11, 2011 by Melody Fury

    Sweet! Let me know how it goes :) Red bean paste from the Asian market is a good (lazy) substitute for the filling if you’re busy ;)

  15. April 06, 2012 by Fennel Pollen

    I love this recipe. Would be ok if I put it on our site with a backlink to original. Would love to share.

  16. April 07, 2012 by Melody Fury

    Yes, please feel free. Glad you like it!

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