Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rice Dumplings (Chang or Tzun Tzi)

(The first picture is what a Zong looks like without the leaves wrapping, the middle picture is by Daniel Yiek, Sarikei-Time-Capsule, and the bottom photo is an ancient drawing of the transparent,uncorruptable,poet philosopher Chu Yuan.)

It is almost time for rice duumplings festival or the festival to commemorate the death of Chu Yuan. It is most commonly called Tuan Yu Chieh, a "sad or bitter" festival.

The legend of Chu Yuan is very well known. It tells of how this official who was not corrupt tried to make official procedure transparent and get the Emperor adhere to proper governance.

When finally he reached the inncer circle of the influece of the Emperor and had the ear of the great ruler, someone betrayed him. He was so disappointed that he commuited suicide by jumping into the river. His followers tried to find his body but could not. Thus they believed that in order to appease the gods , and the fish in the river, they must make Tzun Tzi or chang and throw them into the river, so that the body of Chu Yuan would not be eaten. They also started the drangon boat rowing competition to commemorate his death every year since that day.

My maternal grandmother was the best person to make this dumpling. Small and dainty, they would have just a small layer of glutinous rice covering a huge filling of read bean paste, or meat filling. You can sink your teeth into a dumpling and you will hit the golden filling of delicious chestnut, mushroom and slivers of fragrant meat.
Her red bean paste was made from well selected red beans and cooked lovingly to have the best of the bean taste coming out. This can only be done in a huge kuali and with a lot of stirring and the correct amount of sugar. Otherwise, cooking the red bean too fast will only give the cook a burnt smell and a bitter after taste. One has to be very very patient to make this wonderful paste.

One has to be very skilled to be able to use only one leaf to make the dumpling. The string, preferably the organic keng chow, or reed, imported from China, must be well bundled and hanging from a nail. A small pull and a defty tie around the traingular dumpling, you will have a good dumpling all ready to be streamed and guarranteed not to burst in the two hours of slow cooking!!

My grandmother could make two hundred in the early hours of the morning. And each one of them would be exactly the same size,same weight and same shape - flawless. She would hand her dumplings in bundles of 10 (This is a Foochow numerical coefficient of "dai" , a dai is made up of ten or twelve dumplings tied together). When she had completed using up all the ingredients, she would start boiling them in the recycled 20 kilo oil tin, which could easily be placed on her Foochow stove. Her management and execution of the whole process will remain deeply etched in my memory. How efficient and loving she was. Dumplings made with loving kindness and Foochow feminine determination taste the best in the world. This is the brand I go for.

Her dumplings would then be distributed, personally carried and delivered, to all her children and grandchildren. No one would have one less than another.

ISO 9000. Certificed dumplings. How can I forget her dumplings!! I will be forever grateful to her loving kindness and generosity.

(P/s according to my mother my hands are like legs - foochow saying - so I am not skilled in making the perfect dumpling = my version - banana leaves used instead of the traditional leaves and mine are pillow shaped, and not yet standard in size. Have a happy festival)

2 memories:

Free Bird said...

I miss the bak chang in Sarawak!

The ones here are just plain fatty, too salty, and horribly expensive!

sometimes I feel that the w. malaysians don't make food with love. All they see is how much they can earn from it.

Sarawakians always prepare food with love. Like my grandmother. thats why the food is tasty!

Sarawakiana said...

Thank you free bird.
Food cooked with lots of love and passion become uniquely beautiful and grandchildren remember them till the end of their lives.
I love bak chang. The festival will fall on 6th of June. I hope you get to eat a good Cantonese pillow bak chang. It is as delicious as the Foochow homemake one. Foochows tend to be very generous with the filling or ingredients. that is the secret.


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