It is that time of the year again when we can buy different types of "bak chang" as the festival is celebrated today 28th of May, the fifth day of the fifth moon. "Bak chang" or rice dumplings are glutinous rice parcels wrapped tightly in bamboo leaves, tied and cooked in boiling water for at least 2 hours. It is quite a laborious task. What goes into the dumplings depends on who is making it. The Nyonya (decendents from immigrant Chinese who had adopted Malay attire and food but not the religion) use mushrooms, raddish, soy bean paste and colour the dumplings blue. OK, it sounds weird eating blue dumplings but you won't regret it.
Picture by C. Jason
The Hokkien (immigrants from Southern Fujian in China) include beans, chestnuts, mushrooms, chicken or pork and salted eggs. Salted eggs are usually duck eggs mixed with salt and left to mature till the eggs develop a salty flavour. These dumplings are brown as thick dark soy sauce is used as seasoning. My neighbour who is a fantastic cook sent some over and below is what it looked like before I attacked it. Dumplings are really delicious but the glutinous rice sits in your stomach and takes a long time to digest. We don't usually eat them at night or we will end up tossing and turning in bed.
The "Bak Chang" festival is celebrated as an annual tradition in honour of China's ancient poet and statesman, Qu Yuan (340 - 278 BC). He commited suicide by drowning in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth moon after the fall of the Chu kingdom to General Bai Qi in 278 BC . A number or reasons were given for what he did - as an act of grief when his country was taken by invaders, as a protest and shame to the corrupt government of which he was Deputy Prime Minister or he had fallen out of favour with the King. The people who greatly loved and admired him threw dumplings into the river to stop fishes from eating his body.