Friday, 22 June 2012

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival and Glutinous Rice Dumplings


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival
Image from Big Red Blog




















This Saturday the 23rd June is one of the Chinese's most celebrated festival - DuanWu Festival, or Dragon Boat festival. Chinese celebrates it by watching (or participating) a dragon boat race and eating Glutinous Rice Dumplings. Of course, we don't celebrate for the sake of celebrating. Here is the story:


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival
Image from Beijing Impression

























Back in 300BC, during China's Warring States Period, a loyal minister (now famous for his poems) QuYuan from Zhou Dynasty was accused of conspiracy and was ejected by his sovereign. During his exile, he wrote a lot of poems to express his sorrow and anger. He was so depressed about his situation, he committed suicide by binding a rock to his chest and jumping into the river. People who supports him has searched everywhere in the river, but could not find his body.

Scared that the fishes in the river will eat his body, they made tons of rice dumplings and dumped them in the river, in hope that the fishes will eat those instead of QuYuan.

Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival
Image from Celergo

















I'm not quite sure where the dragon boat custom came from for the festival, as dragon boat racing has been around even before the event happened. But I think it has to do with some sort of ritual.


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival


















I was never keen in the Glutinous Rice Dumplings, which is called 粽子 (Zongzhi) in Mandarin. They smelled really fragrant, a bit like Chinese tea, but there were always too much glutinous rice and split mung beans than other ingredients. However, after I have tried the Zongzhi made by my sister in law's mum, I fell in love. By making your own, you can make sure that it is packed with tasty ingredients to balance out the fragrant but bland glutinous rice and split mung beans.

As it's not easy making them and every time you can only make a certain amount, I decided to learn how to make my own to make sure we have a good supply. But after all the work (I'm still boiling the last batch as I am typing), I only managed to make 23 mini ones and 1 normal one. It sounds like a lot but it really isn't.

Anyway, I was really surprised that I still remember how to make them, and I made them even better than 2 years ago! (Although my hubby has pointed out that mine aren't as pointy as his mum's... )


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival

















We use Zong leaves (it could be from assorted plants) to wrap the raw ingredients (rice, mung beans, a bit of each fillings, more mung beans and then rice), and dried reed grass stalks to wrap it up tightly. I wanted to show you the wrapping process, but I had no cameraman with me. Perhaps next time.


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival


















The glutinous rice and split mung beans were washed and soaked overnight in the fridge, and the diced pork belly was marinated overnight in the fridge as well with sugar, salt, white pepper, Chinese 5 spice, dark soya sauce, Maggi seasoning sauce (very different from normal light soya sauce), Sesami Oil and ShaoXing Wine.


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival
























The other ingredients I've used are Chinese Dried Shiitake Mushrooms and Dried Scallops soaked in hot water, and Chinese Sausages - Lap Cheung (Cantonese). I would have added a salted duck egg yolk and some soaked dried shrimps as well but I didn't have any.


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival

















After they are wrapped, we boil them in hot water for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours, before they are ready for eating or freezing. The fragrance of the leaves are infused into the rice, and the smell is a bit, zen like (because it smells a bit like Chinese tea). We eat them with soya sauce, and perhaps some Lee Kam Kei XO Sauce.


Chinese Dragon boat festival, dragon boat, Chinese festival


















I wish I could make more, but I ran out of leaves. Next time I'll make sure I have enough of everything to make at least 36 to make my effort worthwhile! I had a hard time wrapping the normal sized ones, but those will be a bit more filling. Will try again next time.