Bakchang, or glutinous rice dumplings are traditionally eaten on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. As with many Chinese practices, this practice also stem from a folklore from the period of the Warring States. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the Miluo River to prevent fish from eating the body of the poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself there after he unsuccessfully warned his Emperor and countrymen of the expansion of the neighbouring kingdom. This folklore is also known as the Duanwu Festival or the Dragonboat Festival and this packet of rice has evolved into the bakchang we eat today.
We did not make our batch of bakchang in time for the 5th of the 5th but it was perfect weather for some warm packetful homely love. The night before, Mel soaked the glutinous rice, mushrooms and bamboo leaves in water.
We were both wondering if we bought enough ingredients, such as dried shrimps and chestnuts. Oh well, we would only know the next day.
Mel's friend, Hooi Li, came the next day. Mel woke up real early to start stir-frying the glutinous rice with caramel sauce, soy sauce and five spice powder. I helped with the stir-frying, too, and we both wondered if the rice was too 'burnt'. Hooi Li did not think so, so it was fingers crossed.
Hooi Li brought with her some marinated pork belly and in no time, Mel demonstrated how to fold and hold the bamboo leaves to keep the ingredients safely tucked. We made sure there was one piece of pork, one piece of mushroom and two chestnuts in each dumpling.
I have had bakchang all my life but admittedly, this was my first attempt at making them on my own. It took me quite a few dumplings before actually getting the folding 'right'. Not very perfect, the shape, unfortunately.
I left the tying to Mel. She had a good sifu (her mother) and she herself made a patient teacher, too. Haha, it must have been trying to have a student like me, who could not get the leaves properly folded.
In total, we made 52 bakchangs!
We boiled them in batches and watched the time. The first batch went in for 2.5 hours and we were quite excited.
Although it was a lot of work, it was much fun, too! I really enjoyed myself!
Grand opening ceremony of a bakchang - success!
The texture of the rice was great, and the taste of the other ingredients blended well. Only inconsistency was the saltiness of the rice, perhaps due to how the stir-frying was done in a frying pan instead of a wok.
Out of the 52 dumplings, only one leaked. Not bad. And since we had so many bamboo leaves leftover, we will be making more dumplings on another rainy weekend! Orders? Teehee...