Eating rice dumpling during the Rice Dumpling Festival a.k.a. Duan Wu Jie（端午节) a.k.a. Dragon Boat Festival is a Chinese tradition that has been going on since time immemorial. The festival takes place every year on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar, which is also when the sun is the strongest during the summer solstice. The racing of dragon boats on this occasion is therefore symbolic since dragons, like the sun, represent masculine energy. The eating of rice dumpling, on the other hand, is based on the legend of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet during the Chu Dynasty who committed suicide on the 5th day of the 5th month after he was wrongly banished from the state for the crime of treason. In order to protect the body of Qu Yuan, the local people started throwing rice dumplings into the Miluo River where he perished in order to feed the fish. Such interesting stories make for a perfect excuse to give this traditional dish a whip and a try, especially since it is a dish embraced by the Chinese population in all parts of the world.
In actuality, there was a previous attempt to make these dumplings back in 2010 – a Hokkien version of rice dumpling that was based on the guy’s mum’s recipe. The result was not too bad, given the fact that it was our first try at doing something so effortful. This year, I got hold of a Teochew nonya rice dumpling recipe and decided to give it another try. The main difference between the Hokkien and Teochew Nonya version is that the former uses key ingredients like pork belly and dark soy sauce to give it a more savoury taste while the latter incorporates ingredients like red bean paste and winter melon to give it a sweeter taste, similar to that of a Nonya dumpling.
- Oil: 4 tbsp
- Glutinous rice: 2kg, soaked overnight & drained
- 5-spice powder: 2 tsp
- Coriander powder: 2 1/2 tsp
- White pepper: 2 tsp
- Dark soy sauce: 4 tbsp
- Salt: 2 tsp
Ingredients (pork filling):
- Oil: 2 tbsp
- Shallot: 150g, peeled & chopped finely
- Minced pork: 800g, marinated overnight with 2 tbsp corn starch, 2 tbsp rice wine, 1 tsp 5-spice powder, 1/2 tsp white pepper, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce & 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Salt: 1 tsp
- White pepper: 1 tsp
- Dried shrimp: 200g, soaked & rinsed
- Winter melon: 250g, cubed
- 5-spice powder: 1 tsp
- Coriander powder: 1 1/2 tsp
- Bamboo leaves: 100, soaked overnight (no need to dry)
- Dried Shiitake: 100g, soaked & sliced
- Dried chestnut: 50, soaked overnight, boiled for 1 hr, core removed
- Red bean paste: 800g, rolled into 50 small balls
- Straw strings: enough bunches for 50 dumplings, soaked and rinsed
- Pandan leaves: 8 pieces
- Prepare the rice: Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok.
- Fry rice quickly with 5-spice powder, coriander powder, pepper, dark soy sauce & salt till everything is mixed. Remove and set aside.
- Prepare the filling: Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok.
- Fry shallots till browned.
- Add pork, salt, pepper, shrimp, melon, 5-spice powder & coriander powder. Fry 15 min till meat is cooked.
- Wrap them up: Place 2 bamboo leaves (smoother & darker surface inside) over each other such that they overlap halfway. Fold them into equal halves to bring both ends parallel to each other to form a pouch.
- Fill pouch with 1 tbsp rice. Add another tbsp rice and flatten this portion against the leaves around the pouch to form a ‘well’.
- Add 1 tbsp filling, 1 tbsp mushroom, 1 chestnut & 1 ball of red bean paste into the ‘well’. It should be 3/4 full now.
- Add 2 heaped tbsp rice. Compress & smooth out with back of spoon.
- Fold down end of leaves with one palm to seal pouch on top. Pinch edges to the side to secure pyramid shape. Pinch again and wrap remaining leaves around the pyramid.
- Bundle with a string by winding it 2 times around the folded-down leaves. Loop the end of the string and pull downwards to tighten.
- Boil them: Heat water in a pot with pandan leaves. Fully immerse the dumplings into the water. Boil on high heat for 1 hr.
- Turn the dumplings over in the pot. Boil on high heat for another hour.
- Remove & cool before serving.
- Watch this video to grab a clearer visual of how dumplings should be wrapped.
- The forming of the rice ‘well’ in the pouch helps to hold all the filling in place, so that the dumpling wouldn’t fall apart immediately after it is unwrapped.
Makes about 50 small dumplings