how to wrap bak chang | zongzi | chinese rice dumpling

I confess I had no intention to publish this post.

Yes, I took pictures of the process – but I do that with most things I cook. Yes, I looked at the pictures and I knew they captured a moment of time that means a great deal to me, seeing that it was my first attempt at making bak changs.

Yet, I was not going to publish the post.

Why?

Well, I was concerned that bak chang making – a pretty complicated process – simply was not in keeping with the main aim of my blog – to simplify the complex so as to teach or encourage people how to cook.

I am simply not convinced that one can learn how to wrap bak chang by looking at pictures.

But today, being Duanwu Jie (端午节) or the Chinese Dumpling Festival, I was feeling a little nostalgic. And I thought, well, this post would be a good way to document something that is close to my heart because my mom taught me how to make these dumplings, and hence, I decide to write this post after all.

It all started around this time last year. One of my new neighbours made bak changs and was cooking them in his driveway. The smell drove me mad and I told my cousin, Lynnette, that I wanted to learn how to wrap bak changs too. She remarked that she also wanted to learn but we didn’t know anyone who could teach us.

That was when my mom, who had been listening, said she knew how to make bak changs!

Fancy that. It took me 40 years to figure out that my mom could make bak changs. The thing is, she used to make them when I was a kid, and for many years she had not made any.

So this year, when I saw bamboo leaves being sold at the dry goods stall at the market, I was determined that I would learn.

Because I really don’t want to flood this post with loads of steps and pictures, I am going to focus on the process of the wrapping, which is of course, the most difficult part. I have included the recipe for the rice and the fillings at the of this post.

 

For the bak changs I made this year, I kept things simple. I used glutinous rice (of course), pork belly, shitake mushrooms, dried prawns and chestnuts.

Yep, they all had to be pre-cooked.

The bamboo leaves had been soaked for  a couple of days so as to soften them. To start, the leaves were wiped with a clean towel to dry them. The ends were snipped off.


Then the leaves were laid in opposite directions, with one over-lapping the other.


 Hold the leaves and bring the ends together to the middle to make a pouch.

 Fill with rice till about 1/3 full.

 Add the fillings.

Top up with more rice. You will need to press the rice down firmly.

Use one hand to cup the bak chang, and the other to bring the leaves forward. Make sure you press the tip of the dumpling so that the end is pointed.


 Close the sides of the leaves over the bak chang, and fold the ends down to seal.

 Wind the string firmly around the bak chang twice, then seal with 2 knots.

Be sure you have tied the bak chang tightly. Otherwise the filling will spill out during the cooking process.

We cooked the bak changs in boiling water for about 1.5 hours, or until the rice was cooked through and soft.

It was fun to wrap bak changs with the womenfolk.

And it was even better to bite into a bak chang one has made all by oneself!

Not because of the sense of accomplishment, but also because it is only in home-made bak changs where you find lots of liao (fillings)!

端午节快乐!

 

Bak Chang | Zongzi | Chinese Rice Dumpling
Yields 25
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Ingredients
  1. For the rice
  2. 2 kg glutinous rice, soaked over-night and drained
  3. 50g minced garlic
  4. 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  5. 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  6. 1 tablespoon chicken powder
  7. Pepper, to taste
For the filling
  1. 1 kg pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces
  2. 300g dried prawns
  3. 500g dried shitake mushroom, rehydrated and sliced
  4. 400g chestnuts, boiled until soft and remove skin
  5. 50g shallots, thinly sliced, divided into 2 parts
  6. 50g minced garlic, divided into 2 parts
  7. 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  8. 2 tablepoons Chinese five spice powder
  9. 2 tablspoons light soy sauce
  10. 2 tablepoons dark soy sauce
  11. Pepper, to taste
To assemble
  1. 2 bunches bamboo leaves
  2. 2 bunches string
Instructions
  1. For the rice
  2. Stir-fry garlic in vegetable oil. Add rice and seasonings.
  3. Stir-fry until the seasonings are well-combined.
  4. Set aside to cool.
For the filling
  1. Stir-fry shallots and garlic in the wok. Add dried prawns and mushrooms.
  2. Fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  3. In the same wok, add a little more oil and shallots and garlic. Add pork and all the seasonings. Stir-fry until the ingredients are well-combined. There is no need for the pork to be cooked through.
  4. Set aside to cool.
For the bak chang
  1. Wipe the leaves with a clean towel to dry them. Snip off the ends.
  2. Lay the leaves in opposite directions, with one over-lapping the other.
  3. Hold the leaves and bring the ends together to the middle to make a pouch.
  4. Fill with rice till about 1/3 full.
  5. Add the fillings.
  6. Use one hand to cup the bak chang, and the other bring the leaves forward. Make sure you press the tip of the dumpling so that the end is pointed.
  7. Close the sides of the leaves over the bak chang, and fold the ends down to seal. Tie the string firmly around the bak chang twice, then seal with 2 knots.
  8. Be sure you have tied the bak chang tightly. Otherwise the filling will spill out during the cooking process.
  9. Cook the bak changs in boiling water for about 1.5 hours, or until the rice was cooked through and soft.
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