Monday, June 18, 2007

Festival - Sarikei Rice Dumpling Festival

Rice Dumpling 2007
The smaller one is the lye water dumpling.
In the old days, jute string was used (natural fibre).

e interrupt normal programming to cover a major festival coming up in the Sarikei Chinese community and across the world. Rice dumpling festival 端午节 falls on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it'll be on 19th June 2007.

It commemorates the death of Qu Yuan 屈原, a poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his emperor against the threat of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin Dynasty overtook Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, the patriotic Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. According to legend, bak chang (in Hokkien) or rice dumplings 粽子 were thrown by his countrymen into the river to prevent fish from eating the poet's body.

Rice Dumpling 2007.
Hmm, nice body shape.

Rice dumpling is made of glutinous rice 糯米 stuffed with different fillings. They are wrapped in bamboo leaves 竹叶 in the tetrahedral shape and tied with a string (natural jute fibre was used in the 1970s and earlier). Do you recall those dried bamboo leaves sold in the shops stacked nicely in bundles?

Making rice dumplings is a happy family affair. Wrapping them in tetrahedral shape requires skill and most beginners will end up making the simpler Cantonese pillow variety. Home made dumplings are tied together in bundles and cooked by boiling them in recycled cooking oil tins (at least in my home) for up to 2 hours. Now you can use a pressure cooker. They can last at least 2 days without refrigeration (not many in Sarikei could afford a fridge in the 1960-70s).

Rice Dumpling 2007
Nonya version, I think.

Nowadays you can get all sorts of fillings throughout the year as they are sold commercially. In the old days, the yellow coloured lye water dumplings 碱水粽 are either filled with sweet fillings (eg: red bean) or unfilled. The latter are often eaten with sugar.

The favourite bak chang filling has to be a combo of pork, mushroom, dried shrimps (hay bee) and chestnut and not forgetting that chunk of pork fat that literally melts in your mouth.

Bak chang is one of the all time Chinese favourites, no but's about that.


nelson said...

bak changs are so nice that i must have them every year. i'm afraid i'm not going to see these anymore in future.

sometimes i use knife and cut it into 2 halves and makan.

sarikei rox said...

duan wu jie is not called 'rice dumpling festival' in english.. haha.. it sounds soooo not nice for a festival with such a history.. and i think the story is slowly forgotten among the younger generations already.. for them its only 'zhong zi jie'.. no longer duan wu jie.. even the Mid Autumn Festival has slowly becoming 'denglong jie' or worse, 'yue bing jie' for them.. how saddening to see our culture slowly forgotten and unappreciated..

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