Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dumpling Festival 端午節!

Today's the Chinese Dumpling Festival or 端午節 "Duan Wu Jie", and a public holiday in Taiwan. Honestly, I tend to forget the legend/history behind this festival, and just enjoy the celebrations - in Spore, it's usually celebrated by the dragon boat race and eating these special rice dumplings or "bak zhang".

Since moving to Taiwan, I've discovered that although Chinese everywhere in the world make these dumplings, they are different everywhere. In Singapore, one of the most popular varieties are the nonya zhang, which is my personal favorite. In Taiwan, there are the northern and southern zhangs. The northern variety is made of harder rice, whilst the southern zhangs are made with softer rice. The fillings are also very different from the Spore ones. Then there are the sweet zhangs, which I recently learnt how to make ...

Black Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Red Bean Paste ...
(Courtesy of the award winning chefs from Regent Formosa Hotel, Taipei)

After my session learning how to wrap these zhangs, I've decided that they are truly too time consuming to make them myself. Apparently, the chef had soaked the black glutinous rice for 6-7 hrs, then cooked them till semi-cooked. And after we had wrapped them in the bamboo leaves, we still had to cook them in water for 4 hours! I never knew how much work was involved in making zhangs till now!

For those who are interested, I decided to do a lil research to refresh my memory as to the origins of this festival, and this is what I found:

端午節 was to commemorate this ancient hero/Chinese scholar "Qu Yuan" in 3rd Century BC who was maligned and framed, and as a result drowned himself in this Milo river in China. As the people believed him to be righteous, they starting throwing rice dumplings into the river to feed the fish so that they wouldn't eat his body ... this is one version. But there are other versions which you can find here.

Happy Dumpling Festival!

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