Dui Ng Festival 端午節, better known as Dragon Boat Festival in English, takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar on which the Chinese calendar is based. Around that day, we have bamboo leaf-wrapped sticky rice dumplings 糉子 (zong zi) and dragon boat racing. (Why? You can find out at the end of this article.)
Anyway, I am too lazy to do dragon boat racing but I love eating, so 糉子is my highlight around this time of the year. You can buy them in Chinatown or Chinese supermarkets but I prefer to make my own as I can put more of my favourite ingredient inside! Here is my grandma’s recipe:
INGREDIENTS (to make 21 dumplings):
1. Dry bamboo leaves (photo above)
~ 4 leaves per dumpling, get a few extra as some might split in the middle
~ available in big Chinese supermarkets, e.g. the ones in Chinatown.
~ pick the pack with larger leaves as it makes wrapping easier.
2. Salted duck egg yolks (photo above)
~ my favourite ingredient!! In fact, I decided to make my own 糉子 because the ones I get from the shop sometimes do not even have them (cost cutting exercise)!
~ 6 salted duck eggs
~ available in big Chinese supermarkets
Marinade for pork belly:
1tsp of sesame oil
3tsp of sugar
3tsp of salt
2tbsp of five spice powder
4tbsp of soya sauce
7. String which is safe for cooking
1. Remove the skin of pork belly and chop it up into bite size pieces.
2. Marinate the pork belly pieces
3. Soak the mung beans in water
4. Soak the sticky rice in water
5. Soak the dried Chinese winter mushrooms in water
1. Boil the dried bamboo leaves until soft. (Tip: DO NOT try to bend them until they are soft or else they will split)
2. Drain the leaves
3. Drain the mung beans, sticky rice and Chinese winter mushrooms
4. Slice the Chinese winter mushrooms
5. Remove salted duck egg yolks from the white. Cut them into halves or quarters, depending on how much you love egg yolks
6. Wrap it!
I first learnt how to prepare the ingredients and how to wrap them up using bamboo leaves by watching my grandma. She wraps them into flat parcels. I, however, prefer the abstract pyramid form as that was what I grew up drawing. I refer to the following video I found on Youtube for wrapping technique. The English of the narrator is not the best but it is the technique that counts!
I personally found that it is harder to wrap if I put too much filling in, especially as my hands are small. If you are a beginner, I highly recommend you starting by using small portions otherwise the rice will come out everywhere!)
7. Boil it in low heat for 3 hours. (Ok, the video said to steam but my grandma says to boil!)
Actually, to save energy (and also money!), I cooked mine in a vaccuum cooking pot by Thermos for 6 hours. This means I only need to use gas for 10 minutes to get everything to boil and keep them cooking inside vaccuum (free!)
1. Cut the strings
2. Unwrap the leaves
3. Cut the dumpling in small pieces
4. Put some sugar on the side and dip the pieces in before eating. (Yes, I did say sugar- most people use soya sauce or chilli sauce instead but my family uses sugar and I think it tastes so much better!)
5. I also recommend a cup of Chinese tea to go with 糉子
Origin of Dui Ng Festival 端午節/ Dragon Boat Festival:
There are many stories about the origin of this festival. The story I grew up with is that it commemorates the death of poet Wuk Yuan of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Chau Dynasty. He was a well respected official. However, when the king decided to ally with an increasingly powerful state, Wuk was banished for opposing the alliance and was accused of treason. He refused to compromise and killed himself by drowning in the river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The locals, who admired Wuk, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat his body. That is the origin of 糉子. The local people also paddled out on boats to scare the fish away. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.