I failed miserably in an attempt to resist one of the guiltiest of pleasures. This year. Again. DuanWu Jie (DragonBoat Festival) is my Hungry Ghost Festival. And I’m the Ghost, of course. Unlike the noble Qu Yuan, this is a sinner who fell in love with the sinful zong (rice dumpling). Soft, savoury glutinous rice, large pieces of five-spiced pork belly, pasty mung beans, sweet chestnuts and salted egg yolk. Did I leave out shitake mushrooms?
Gluttony triumphed over lust as I gobbled my last, best piece of zong this year. It was dressed in a dark, fragrant soya sauce marinate. Oil wetted my spastic lips, goatee and fingers. Most of it went into my bloodstream. In a blood-clotting moment, I had a thought. A thought that surprised even the then climaxing me.
What is a zong anymore?
On the night of DuanWu Jie, among others, a 6 months-old cherubic face was sleeping on the sofa, under the cool, humming air-conditioning system while an 85 years-old man repeated his tales, as familiar as the nostalgic scent of bamboo leaves for zong wrapping.
America’s Got Talent was on. So does everywhere else.
The table was set. The aroma of chili paste with dried shrimps filled the air and of course, attracted the desperate flies. Malaysians, the naturally gifted badminton players had no problem with zapping them flies with the e-racquets.
Stainless steel multi-tier steamers aside, modern times certainly do not change our definition of a Chinese dinner. The juicy steamed chicken, herbal roasted duck, stir-fried rice cake (which goes extremely well with white rice), steamed pomfret with fermented soya bean paste, greens like kale (with prawns for some laughters), braised pork ribs with mushrooms & chicken feet, simple steamed red snapper with soya sauce & fried shallots and the o’faithful soya sauce/sesame oil/shallots dipping. And the therapeutic cabbage soup with dried oysters the elders insisted. Respect the taste.
Adults and children at the table. The limboistic ones were free to roam about. With a plate full of goodness in hand, the obvious choice was under the air-conditioning system. Meanwhile, cherub was still dreaming, oblivious to the sounds of the prawns and America’s Got Talent.
And I had two helpings of rice.
“Construction is very important in making a good zong. The ties should neither be too tight nor too loose’. The elders said.
And it’s making more sense to me, as the years go by. With each DuanWu Jie.