Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 39): The Season Of Love (For Bak Zhang)

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.

35 comments:

Sugar Bean said...

Sob sob, I also want a bite on those dumplings. Didn't really appreciate it when I was in KL,took it for granted. Now realised the importance of it. Ok, will learn how to make it next time! (bet I'll give up before I start. Haha!)

ice said...

I like the glutinous rice flavored with yam in the dong po pork dumpling! It's really smooth like you said. And the fats of coz. Did you get your foie gras dumpling in the end?

Actually the dumpling was wrapped in bamboo leaves, then with an outer layer of lotus leaf.

Nic (KHKL) said...

sugar bean, no worries. i'm sure you'll be able to savour some soon, after your graduation! :D is there a chinatown at your place? if yes, i'm sure they have rice dumplings as well! :D

ice, ohh, so there was yam in the rice! cool! no, i was too lazy to go all the way to orchard for the foie gras rice dumpling the next day..haha! there's always next year, i guess. and thanks so much for the clarification on the wrap! changed my description already! xie xie! :D

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

yes apparently i was very late too..had the first 1 yesterday..and ended the count at 3 by the time nite came..

Life for Beginners said...

There's a foie gras zhang??? Wow... decadent, man... :)

Selba said...

The Bak Zhang sounds so yummy....

I didn't know that bak zhang has to do anything with love, hehehe...

550ml jar of faith said...

Best ode to dumpling this season yet! The look of love indeed... I cannot think of sticky rice being better put into words!

ice said...

You're welcome! I saw the bamboo leaves coz I ate the bak chang to the end. :P

thenomadGourmand said...

dash of Chinese rice wine?? foie gras zhang? my my..wats next.. sooner or later we will get varieties like how mooncakes are like now!
ohh..u jz reminded me of the alkaline ones..eaten w kaya or blk sugar..luvvv those..but good kaya hard to come by in KL.

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Fois gras zhang?? That's indulgent! Do you like the Nyonya zhang? The blue coloured one with sweetish pork mince filling...I love eating that! =D

Faye fly said...

so far ate 2 much bak chang..tengok pun takut takut ..@@..haha

sc said...

woah, dung po dumplings? sounds so lush.. but i'm still old skool bak zhang- with fatty meat, mushrooms, salted egg, dried shrimps and most importantly, chestnut! :)

lecoupletoy said...

I am echoing LFB, there's a foie gras zhang??? Wow... decadent, man... :) LOL!!

Keropok Man said...

that's a very very very delicious looking zhang!

i have never been able to appreciate those alkaline zhangs. my tongue's different. hehe...

Paprika said...

A look of love indeed. I love how the leaves unfurl to reveal all that glorious fattyness within. Swoooon!

CUMI & CIKI said...

the first shot is so excellent i can almost hear the lotus leaf whining and crumbling.. :P

J2Kfm said...

me no lurve for alkaline dumplings though. wonder whats the fuss over some pulut with lye water.

but zhang with FATTY pork's a delight. no need to wait til duan wu jie, anytime also can get from shops nowadays.

mimid3vils said...

Your "dumpling" from hotel more like lotus leaf rice lah...so big..

I like my mom's home-made dumpling too, with any ingredients that we requested & full of love of course!!!

evan 이벤젤린 said...

i never had any this year :( wasn't even aware of duan wu jie!

babe_kl said...

such luxurious chang!!! btw the frozen alkaline ones are not too bad, well in case you crave for them in the middle of the nite :p

ladyironchef said...

The approaching of the duan wu jie every year in may, always hold a special meaning for me; while others celebrate the day-they-were-born with the fanciful & delicate cakes, I do mine with a bak zhang :)

UnkaLeong said...

Nyonya Chang...now there's one I have not eaten in a while ;) But foie gras chang? That's rich bro...Heheheh

Nic (KHKL) said...

joe, woah, 3 bak zhangs on the same day?? cool! i had 2 max per day. but for 3 consecutive days! hehehehehe...

kenny, yupe, yupe. from meritus mandarin hotel! :D din get to try cos sold out. next year, hop to sg la. we go check it out! :D

selba, i lurvvvvee homemade bak zhangs! :D the oilier, the better. ok, not healthy, but i like! :D :D oh, the lovey dovey story was basically a little expression of my love for the sexy dumplings. totally fiction. hehehe..

550ml jar of faith, thanks! :D imagine a steaming hot dumpling + a cup of chinese pu er tea + dusty springfield's "The Look Of Love". ok, funny equation, that..haha! but yeah, the dumpling was love at first sight! :D

ice, haha, u are most perceptive la. i finished mine too but my mind was already thinking about the next zhang as i took the last bite. greedy me..hehe...

thenomadgourmand, u r right! it's getter fancier as we speak. i wont be surprised there'll be pizza and tiramisu flavours next..haha! yeah, good kaya is really, really hard to come by. just like good homemade bak zhang. i wonder if petaling street has good kaya or not..hhmmmm

bangsar-babe, ooohhh, i like nyonya zhang as well! those shaped like a pillow, right? :D i had the sweet/savoury ones. complete with dried shrimps! an interesting flavour that's delicious! :D

faye fly, haha, i know what u mean. i oso a bit jelak after 2 zhangs per day, for 3 days! but some chinese tea and some jalan-jalan, i felt that i was able to do it again! hehehe..

sc, old skool rawks! :D nothing beats the original taste of bak zhang with the essentials like fatty meat, mushrooms and dried shrimps. ohh, a good soy sauce too! i just finished my last homemade old-skool zhang. so sad!

lecoupletoy, yupe, there is! i din get to try this year. hopefully can do it next year. come to sg! we go for some decadence!

Nic (KHKL) said...

keropok man, different tongue? woah, so deep! haha! actually, the alkaline ones are pretty tasteless unless accompanied by some sweet condiments. i like mine with red bean paste.

paprika, oh yes! i was definitely not expecting a HUGE slab of belly but yes, it was HUGE! and it went really well with the fragrant lotus leaf. *me swooooon too*

cumi & ciki, woah, so poetic one u!:D thanks for the compliment, babe! :D good food is inspiring la, i guess. hope u had lotsa good zhangs this year. :D

j2kfm, yeah, i think the sweet condiments extrapolate the lye-d pulut to the max. but i guess if cooked well, the softness of it can be rather addictive la. hehe..

ya lor, can get rice dumplings anywhere, anytime now. but for those really special ones like dong po and foie gras, i guess i'll hafta wait for the jie la. in the meantime, hokkien mee! :D

mimi, ya lor! it's really like hor yip farn liddat hor? but this one got less ingredients compared to hor yip farn. yeah, i totally agree on homemade dumplings. full of love and flavours..ahhh, the good life. :D

evan 이벤젤린, how can, how can??? u dun like zhangs? well, these delicacies are available all year round now, so can get em anytime. :D i'm always game for a dumpling crawl! *hint hint* hehe

babe_kl, haha, i crave for them in the middle of everything! thank goodness duan wu jie is an annual festival. i cant imagine it being a monthly thingy. my belly will just burst! haha!

ladyironchef, omg, that is indeed special!!!! and very sensible too. cos on our birthdays, we should and deserve to eat what we enjoy best. i'm glad i had hokkien mee for my birthday this year. and karaoke. and a group of wonderful friends! :D

unkaleong, rich as in lemak or rich as in kaya ar? heheheheheh...i am sooo waiting to give the foie gras dumpling a try. am not expecting too much from it. just a generous piece of it will make me happy. as for nyonya chang, i equally likezzzz. :D

hApPy HaPpY said...

I like your photography. Well Done.

Camemberu said...

Boo hoo...I haven't had a single bak chang. Photos look fantastic. I want some now! Hey maybe we should get Keropokman's mom to make some foie gras chang too!

Shell (貝殼) said...

I like simple ingredients dumpling.
Those with only beans & half fat pork are just nice to me^^

ToyGirl said...

Hey, remember last year Dumpling Festival? That's when we met!! How time flies!! I still remember the dumplings that paprika brought over to FBB's house.

Alexander said...

I haven't had Bak Zhang for sometime now. yummy!

Alexander
Alex's World! - http://www.kakinan.com/alex

Nic (KHKL) said...

hApPy HaPpY, thanks for stopping by! :D and for the compliment too! :D

camemberu, wow, u've not had any bak zhang this year? got get some! :D i think it's available all year round here in singapore la..hehe..yes yes yes! good idea on the foie gras zhang! must go ask keropokman d! this is like international business liddat..cool! :D

Shell (貝殼), hi5! fatty pork is the must-have in dumplings for me as well!!! and the saltier, the better. :D

toygirl, awwwwww! you know, i actually thought of gathering the ss gang on wesak day. according to the gregorian calendar, that was the day we met! wei, must go do karaoke soon d...it's been a longgggg while. :D

mimid3vils said...

but tell u 1 secret, my mom asked an auntie to "pack" the dumpling @ RM 0.10 per pieces this year~~ Shhhhh.... ^.^

Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

backStreetGluttons said...

Food we can miss now and then , but where has the sweet yearly harbinger of deep sticky love disappeared to , O lady Moon of the ocean beneath da heart?

Nic (KHKL) said...

mimi, OMG!!!!!!! RM0.10? woah! such a good deal! i wanna buy some. can ar? hehehehehehe...

hapi, hi! thanks for dropping by! have a nice day too! and hapi blogging! :D

backstreetgluttons, yes, the beauty of the Chinese orientals. from one delicacy to another, month after month. when the moon shines bright, we'll be ready for the salted egg embedded in the cake! yes, we are! :D

PureGlutton said...

Wahaha...i like your "Look of Love" caption of the bakzhang!
OK OK ... i WILL be making my own bakzhang soon...when all the hoo-ha of the festival is over...come get some from me!