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Culture: Happy Dragon Boat Festival! Rice Dumpling Galore

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rice dumplings dragon boat festival

 

It’s the day on the Lunar Calendar to eat glutinous rice dumplings also known as zong zi in mandarin and in Hong Kong and Macau, where a crew of men and women row “dragon boats” together with a drummer seated at the base of the boat. The legend of Duan Wu Jie (端午节)begins with a famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the Milou River.

This practice of eating rice dumplings and rowing the boat shaped like a dragon was meant scare away the man eating fishes and evil spirits of the sea, celebrated annually by Chinese communities in Asia. The villagers threw rice dumplings filled with meat into the sea to prevent the body of Qu Yuan, the famous poet from being eaten. Variations of the rice dumplings are made and sold in different regions, wrapped in bamboo leaves.

bazhang rice dumplings

The usual stuffings are savory pork with chestnuts, but my all time favourite is still the sweet Nonya ones that my aunt used to make, particularly the Kueh Zhang Abu, a fraction the size of the usual dumplings without any filling and dipped in gula melaka (palm sugar).

Hope everyone is having a wonderful dragon boat festival! My mother used to wrap this every year with my maternal grandmother, and hang bunches of them from the make shift roof of our open air kitchen… until my uncle passed away. It is a family superstition that when there’s a death in the family, you should not wrap the dumplings that year and henceforth not to wrap them anymore, otherwise bad things would happen.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. linda @spiceboxtravels
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 01:50:45

    Lovely graphic! I can only imagine how wonderful those plain ones with gula melaka must be.

  2. bilbaobab
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 03:13:12

    They are kind of sweet, milky and rich, but delish! like a malay dessert. Hope you get to eat some rice dumplings on your side of the world! x

  3. Alex
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 07:53:29

    I’m getting my cousin’s husband to sneak up nonya zhang. Honestly, China’s zhang have too strange a flavour for my palate (or i’m just too used to our local ones). I just found out why though, they BOIL their zhang. That’s just wrong, you’re supposed to steam it till the stuff is cooked. The boiling just leaches out all the flavour :(.

  4. bilbaobab
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 19:06:38

    @alex are you sure they BOIL it?? so sayang all the flavours!!! In macau I see them in steamers, but not fragrant like our local ones.. nonya zhang is the best!

  5. alex
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 22:50:41

    YAH! I was watching CCTV and they were running some show about the history and traditions of zhong zi and they showed how they were cooked by boiling the things! idiots! but that would explain why they all taste like boiled starch…and the 肉粽 is even worse…its like they just get some piece of pre cooked pork and shove it into rice and boil. There’s no pre marinade, no complex salting process, its just boiled.
    I’m beginning to see why that guy killed himself.

  6. bilbaobab
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 01:22:44

    so sayang all the flavours gone to waste!

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