Saturday, 16 May 2009

Bak Chang!

It's the 端午节 Dumpling Festival (or Dragon Boat Festival) again! The Chinese celebrates this day which falls on 27 May 2009 this year. Rice dumplings or zong zi are eaten to symbolize the rice offerings on behalf of Qu Yuan, a Chinese patriot (read the legend of this festival here).

I love rice dumplings because on and off, I always have cravings for glutinous rice (or sticky rice) of any sorts. Rice dumpling is one of them. Nowadays there are so many types of rice dumplings. The shape of zong zi is triangularly tetrahedral. Wrapping a zong zi neatly is a skill which is passed down through families. Not many young people know how to do it. They are wrapped in bamboo leaves, which imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice.

There are many types of ingredients inside the dumplings; sweetened meat, red bean paste, char siu (chinese BBQ pork), chinese black mushrooms, salted duck eggs, chestnuts, cooked peanuts, dried shrimps etc.. Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours. Once cooked, the zongzi can easily be frozen for later consumption.

My bro-in-law's mother makes very delicious Nonya dumplings, and which she gives us every year without fail. The size of her zong zi is not too huge and I can eat 2 at one go. Her Nonya dumpling's ingredients are sweetened pork, water chestnut, mushroom, and a dash of "tau sar" (red bean paste) which is very unique and lends a sweet taste to the otherwise savoury snack. It is very very well-done. I'm looking forward to savour the Bak Chang (another common type of rice dumplings) which Mom has ordered from a lady from the market. I like Bak Chang too, its ingredients include pieces of cooked fatty pork, mushrooms, and dried shrimps.

I remember when I was young, during the Dumpling Festival when I was staying at Grandma's old house, many relatives used to give bunches and bunches of rice dumplings to Grandma (she did not know how to make these). Her sis, my Grandaunt, is a fantastic cook, and who always gives us loads of Bak Chang. They were hanged all over on bamboo sticks in Grandma's huge kitchen (to prevent the rats from attacking them). The smell of the Bak Chang was so fragrant throughout the day. I used to be able to eat 5-6 rice dumplings a day when I was a kid because could not resist them.

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