Rice Dumpling Festival or Dragon Boat Festival is commonly known amongst Singaporeans and Malaysians. The official Chinese name is Duan Wu Jie (端午节) in mandarin. It is celebrated annually on the 5th day of the 5th month in accordance to the Chinese lunar calender. This year it will fall on 20 June 2015.
You might be wondering what does dumplings and dragon boat have to do with each other…
In modern China the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi (dumpling)
When we were children, my mum used to toil from night till the wee hours of the morning to complete all the wrapping and steaming of the dumplings so that when we woke up we could enjoy the fruits of her labour. She will make more than 100 of dumplings so that she can keep some for the family and give some away to our relatives.
Recently, I was fortunate to have my mum in our home and I requested that she teach me how to make this kind of Nonya dumplings that I enjoy eating. She was really enthusiastic to do so as she has stopped making these dumplings for many years because of her age.
Just for your information, nowadays, bak chang are available commercially but nothing beats some good homemade dumplings. If you don’t mind the hard work give it a try… It is worth the effort!!!!
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(Makes about 30 rice dumplings)
WHAT YOU REQUIRE
String (To tie the dumplings)
- 1 kg of pig’s fats (You may opt for normal cooking oil instead – although it may not be as tasty)
- 1 kg shoulder butt pork (Or chicken)
- 450g of shallots
- 160g of garlic
- 250g of chestnuts
- 350g of dried small sized prawns
- 12 to 15 pcs of mushrooms
- 2kg of glutinous rice
- 1 packet of bamboo leaves (large size)
- 20 salted egg yolks (halved) – Optional
- 120g of coriander seeds, wash and roast them in the wok till fragrant and pound them into powder. If you can’t get it in seed form use the powder (but in my opinion it is not as fragrant as the seeds)
- Superior black soya sauce
PREPARATION (2 DAYS)
1st day of preparation:
- Get the good piece of fats from the butcher and cut the lard into small cubes (fortunately my butcher did the cutting for me)
- Rinse and dry them before putting into the wok.
- Stir occasionally until all the oil oozes out
- Remove the crispy fats and store them in a jar in the fridge for future use.
- Put away the lard (oil).
(If you’re using cooking oil, you can skip this step.)
For the fillings:
1. Peel and slice the shallots, then stir fry with the lard (or cooking oil) over low fire till slightly brown and set aside.
2. Peel and chop the garlic, then stir fry with the lard (or cooking oil) over low fire till fragrant and set aside
For steps 1 and 2, make sure you watch them like a hawk as they burn easily.
3. Boil the water chestnuts for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked. Then remove the ones that are bad (Those are usually very hard even after they are cooked and have kind of a funky smell.) The good chestnuts usually smell “sweet”. Cut them into small cubes and set aside.
4. Soak the dried prawns for about 15 minutes. Rinse and cut the prawns into 2 or 3 pieces and set aside.
5. Soak the mushrooms till they are soft. Rinse and cut them into ½ cm by ½ cm and set aside.
6. Wash and cut the pork (or chicken) into small cubes like ½ cm by ½ cm. Add 2 tablespoon of corn flour into the pork and mix well.
7. Heat up some lard (or cooking oil) and the pork (or chicken), and stir fry for 5 minutes.
8. Add in the mushrooms and stir fry for another 5 minutes.
9. Add in the dried prawns, chestnuts, shallots and garlic and mix all the ingredients.
10. Add in the dark sauce and mix it evenly into the ingredients and taste. If it is not salty enough add some salt to increase the level of saltiness.
11. Add in the coriander powder and mixed them well with the rest of the fillings.
12. At this point, the filling is already well seasoned so you can cover it and set it aside to cool till the following day when you are ready to wrap the dumplings.
For the Glutinous Rice:
- Wash rice and soak overnight.
- Rinse the rice the following day.
- Heat 8 tablespoons of lard (or cooking oil) into the wok and stir in the rice with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt for a couple of minutes.
- Scoop out and set them aside.
For the bamboo leaves and the strings:
- Wash the bamboo leaves and soak them and the strings overnight.
- The following day, you may pour hot water on them to ensure that they are soft.
Steps on how to wrap the dumpling are as follows:
- Prepare a big pot of water, add 2 tbsp of salt.
- When water is boiling, lower down the rice dumplings.
- Boil for at least 1 hour to 1 ½hours. The water level has to be always above the rice dumplings.
- Take out the rice dumplings while it is done.
- Drip dry the rice dumplings by hanging.
The inside of your dumplings should look something like this: