Bak Chang 肉棕

Dragon Boat Festival, or Duan Wu Festival is to commemorate the death of the scholar Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan once served as high officer but was later banished and accused of treason. Subsequently, he commited suicide and drowned in the Miluo river.

At that time, people who admired and respected him raced out in their boats, with the hope to save him or at least retrieve his body. When they failed to do so, they decided to drop wrapped sticky rice into the river, hoping that the fishes would feed on the sticky rice instead and leave his body alone. And this, is how the dumpling (zongzi) came about.

I was too late shopping for ingredients to make bak chang, bamboo leaves - sold out, dumpling string sold out, dried chestnut - sold out! Good thing that I still kept some supply from last year, but for the chestnut I simply made do with some roasted chestnut.

Making dumpling is by no mean feat. It requires more than a day work - starting from washing and soaking bamboo leaves the night before, until the wrapping of dumpling the next day. It calls for patience, and of course, lots of love especially when you are thinking about those people whom you are making these dumplings for.

"So much work, why don't you just buy it?" you may ask. Well... I guess because I am enjoying it! It is a fun and satisfying experience. It is also a skill, passing down from generation to generation that I am holding on to; a skill, that I would like to pass on to my children in the future too!

Bak Chang
Make 10-12 dumplings
  • 24-30 bamboo leaves (check that the leaves are unbroken/without holes)
  • 24-30 dumpling strings
  • 500 g glutinous rice, washed and soaked for 3 hours
Glutinous Rice Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
Meat and Mushroom Filling
  • 2 heaping tablespoon ebi/ dried shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 250g pork belly, sliced
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp 5-spice powder
  • 2 tbsp ABC kecap manis
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 12 mushroom, soaked
  • 3 tbsp fried shallot (made from 3 fresh shallots)
Green bean filling (optional)
  • 70g split beans, washed, soaked 1 hrs and drained
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 lup cheong, sliced
  • 10-12 chestnuts
  • 3 salted egg, quartered
Cooking Directions
  1. The night before: Wash and soak bamboo leaves and dumpling string overnight. Weigh the leaves down with something heavy.
  2. Place the bamboo leaves in a big pot and fill up water to cover the leaves. Bring the water to boil. Remove and set aside the leaves.
  3. Drain glutinous rice. Add in glutinous rice seasoning and mix well.
  4. Meat and mushroom filling: In a pan, heat up some oil, stir fry ebi and garlic until fragrant, add in the the rest of the ingredients and cook until the sauce thicken.
  5. Green bean filling: Steam split beans for 15 minutes, mash and add in salt and sugar.
  6. Secure the bamboo string on a pole or bar (if none of it available, get a helper to hold it while you tying your dumpling)
  7. Put 2 bamboo leaves together, fold the leaves as shown.
  8. Spoon in glutinous rice and spread it on the leaves as shown (cover the side of the leaves as much as possible).
  9. Add in the filling and top with glutinous rice, cover completely and fold the leaves as shown.

  10. Wrap and tie dumplings (have to be tight so that the leaves won't open up during process of cooking.
  11. Boil a pot of water enough to cover all dumplings. When the water is boiling, add in the dumplings and cook for 2 hours (or equivalent of 2 hours using your pressure cooker - I cooked 20 minutes on 2nd orange line for WMF pressure cooker).
  12. Remove dumplings from the water. Leave till cool by hanging it. Place a bowl/plate below as there will be dripping water.
  13. For storing, keep in the fridge for several days or freeze it and it can be kept for a month.
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