Without fail, a colleague would place a bak zhang or rice dumpling on my desk come a few days before the Duan Wu Festival. For those of us who feed on the Gregorian calendar, her bak zhangs serve as a reminder of yet another approaching Chinese celebration.
This year, there was none. I guess the weather must have taken a toll on her health. And for obvious reasons, I didn’t approach her on this matter. Therefore, the arrival of my favourite Chinese festival came almost unnoticed. At the time of realization, I was already ten bak zhangs late, according to my calendar of gluttony.
So, what did I do to make it up to myself? I rushed to get a foie gras rice dumpling from Pine Court, Meritus Mandarin Hotel. Alas, despite my willingness to splurge and clog my arteries with fat, they were sold out for the day. At the counter, the apologetic staff recommended their new creation, the Dong Po Pork Rice Dumpling instead. Okay, that sounded pretty good too. Nothing can go wrong with a slab of pork belly. Not even ice cream! Just kidding, folks.
The exterior itself was pretty interesting. The layers of lotus and bamboo leaves wrap provided both protection and extra fragrance.
The look of love.
Whether it’s served with white rice or steamed buns or glutinous rice, the keyword to good dong po pork is a flavourful marinate. Personally, I like mine salty, with a dash of Chinese rice wine. This one was on the sweet side, but tasty still. The pretty slab of belly gave good feeling with every bite of the fatty layer. Chestnuts added extra sweetness while mushroom cuts gave some complementing woodsy aroma. I’ve not had such smooth glutinous rice in a long time. Rather substantial and I would equate this to perhaps a plate of chicken rice (with an extra bowl of rice). Satisfied but could have been better had the dumpling been saltier and loaded with more ingredients.
On a lighter note, ever wondered why no love ballad was written about rice dumplings or the Duan Wu Festival? I guess it’s just not as romantic as the cool, mid-autumn nights or the bright, full moon lah.
Homemade dumplings rule. The ingredients used are personalised to suit the tastebuds of one. Scout around and you might just find one that can satisfy your specific needs of a rice dumpling. I found mine (okay, mum did, actually). Though not a perfect match, it was sufficiently good. Literally homemade and more importantly, salty! The meat was on the lean side (hence the slight imperfection) but the hours of steaming had melted the lard, making the pyramidal construction rather aromatic and
oily smooth. Extra salt came from the fried, dried shrimps and salted egg while pasty mung beans gave it a slight sweetness.
I had this for breakfast last Saturday. With a bowl of homemade, sweet red bean soup; cooked with ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds. A fantastic combination that made the humid heat slightly more bearable.
And I haven’t talked about those dainty alkaline dumplings dipped in kaya yet!
A season of love indeed.