Rice Dumpling Festival
A short history of the festival and a recipe to share.
The Rice Dumpling Festival is celebrated by the Chinese on the 5th day of the 5th month on the Chinese lunar calendar in honour of the patriotic poet, Qu Yuan. Legend has it that the patriotic Qu Yuan stood up to the corrupt government of the Chu kingdom in ancient China but was wrongfully charged with treason and dismissed. Upon hearing that the Chu kingdom had been defeated by the Qin kingdom, Qu Yuan, in protest, tied himself to a big rock, jumped into a river and drowned.
Learning of his watery death, the people made rice dumplings and threw them into the river, in the hope that the fish would eat the rice dumplings instead of Qu Yuan’s corpse. They also searched for his body in boats, beating drums and gongs to scare away the fish; hence, this day is also known as the Dragon Boat Festival.
Dumplings are eaten in memory of the great poet each year.
Zongzi is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling.
While the basic ingredients used in making rice dumplings are quite similar (usually pork, Chinese mushroom, chestnut, salted egg, dried shrimps, mung beans), there is a variation in the fillings and shapes among the various Chinese dialectal groups.
There is an element of excitement in unwrapping a dumpling, even though we quite know what to expect. Perhaps it’s the aroma or just the sheer fun of digging into the rice to find the treasures buried within.
A recipe to share
1 kg glutinous rice (soaked 1 hour then washed and drained well)
Bamboo leaves and raffia string for wrapping
400g belly pork (remove skin & cut into cubes )
150g dried mushrooms
200g dried chestnuts ( soak in boiling water for 1 hour and remove skin)
10 salted egg yolks
100g dried shrimps (soak in warm water)
100g mung beans (soak in boiling water for 1 hour, drain and add a pinch of salt and mix well)
2 tsp chicken stock granules
2 tbsp Chinese Five Spice powder
3 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp pepper
3 tsp dark soy sauce
2-3 tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic – chopped finely
6 shallots – sliced thinly
- Soak bamboo leaves in boiling water overnight. Clean and wipe the leaves with damp cloth.
- Marinate pork with dark soy sauce, five spice powder, sugar, salt & pepper for 2-3 hours.
- Heat oil in a wok, fry shallots and garlic till fragrant. Add marinated pork, dried shrimps, chestnuts, mushrooms. Add ½ cup water and 2 tsp chicken stock granules. Stir-fry till pork is cooked. Pour into a bowl & leave it cool.
- Mix glutinous rice with 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp five spice powder, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce and 1 tsp salt. Stir thoroughly. Heat the wok and stir fry well seasoned glutinous rice and mung beans till heated through. Pour into a big bowl. Leave it cool.
- Take 2 bamboo leaves, make them overlap slightly and fold into a conical shape. Put 1 tbsp rice into the funnel base. Add 1 tbsp filling and a piece of salted egg yolk. Cover with some more rice. Fold leaves over rice to form a triangular prism. Tie with raffia string.
- Boil a large pot of water and add 2-3 tsp salt. Drop the bundles of dumpling in and boil for 1 ½ – 2 hours over medium slow fire. Top constantly with boiling water to maintain level of water at all times. When cooked, remove the dumplings and hang to dry.