25.5.09

My Traditions: Happy Duan Wu Jie (Dragon Boat or Solar Maximus Festival)!

I received well wishes from my mate in UK and realised that it's one of my favourite festival on the Lunar Calendar. You can read about the origin of this festival on this wikipedia link.

Of course such a joyous festival (as in most Chinese festivals) is celebrated with a significant dish. For this festival, my whole family from my Grandmother (when she was younger) to my cousins will join in the wrapping of the the Dumpling. Calling it simply Dumpling does not serve justice for such a special food. We call it "Bak Chang" (or Wrapped Meat).

Cut pieces of pork (the seasoned pork (pork belly is the best cut for this dish) are cooked with Chinese chestnuts (which are far sweeter than its European counterparts), Dried Mushrooms (soaked till tender) and Dried Shrimps. The seasoning of the meat with Five-Spice Powder plays a critical role in enhancing the entire flavour of the Bak Chang.

In my family tradition, the Glutinous Rice (which is a very sticky type of rice) is stir fried with seasoning to add to the flavour and speeds up the cooking of the rice once wrapped. We had experimented with Thai Jasmine Rice (another long grain) but the end result was a Bak Chang that could barely hold together once cooked. And of course, I love its sticky texture!

So all of these goodness are wrapped in soaked and washed Bamboo leaves. Only the most experienced and skilled members of my family are able to tie the Bak Chang tight enough (so that it doesn't fall apart in the cooking process) and loose enough so the rice cooks thoroughly. Traditionally, even the strings used were derived from a type of plant resembling grass (sorry I can't recall the name) but now most of it were replaced with plastic strings for convenience.

How do we cook Bak Chang? First a pressure cooker full of stock (hours of bone-boiling) is prepared. Then the entire bunch of Bak Chang are immersed and cooked in the stock.

Not to mention there are many variations of Bak Chang in my family. The typical vegetarian type that uses a special substance (Lye-Water) to turn the rice yellow and flavour. These dumplings ("Kee Chang") are often much smaller and does not contain any ingredients besides the Glutinous Rice. Best eaten dipped in caster sugar!

For the leaner version of Bak Chang, we used lean meat and most of the other ingredients are chopped into smaller pieces. Salted Duck Egg Yolks are also added to another variety which is one of my favourite (counting my calories!!!). There is a Nonya version (Singaporean/Malaysian) specialty that includes meat but uses dried sweetened winter melon sticks to sweeten the savoury spiced meat!

Lastly, there is no hard and fast rule to savour this Bak Chang, no matter which type you choose. Some love it with Chilli sauce, others with Sweetened dark sauce or simply eat it on its own! Oh, I'm so missing my family's Bak Chang right now!!!

PS: Sorry I couldn't find my pictures. Will post it next time! In the meantime, check out my fellow blogger's post about Bak Chang!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

shall post the bak chang photos up soon.. taken meant JUST FOR YOU! haha your mum made them... till i get those transferred from the camera.

SheR. said...

Thanks LP!