Celebrating dumpling festival the old-fashioned way

Celebrating dumpling festival the old-fashioned way
Contestants finishing up their dragon boat decorations at the Straits Quay’s Dragonboat Make and Race competition in George Town.

GEORGE TOWN- Chinese in Malaysia are celebrating the Rice Dumpling Festival by going back to their traditional roots.

Although ready-made dumplings are available, many families took the trouble to prepare the dumplings, which are usually made of glutinous rice in various flavours and require a laborious cooking process.

Businesswoman Datin Jenny Oon, 60, said she found the time to prepare the family's speciality - the nyonya bak chang (glutinous rice dumpling).

"As time passes, better cooking appliances have made the preparation of bak chang easier.

"However, it is important that the traditional taste of the bak chang remains unchanged," she said when met at her house in Vermont Road here recently.

Oon, who has been making such dumplings for more than 20 years, said not only must the taste be good, they must also look nice and presentable.

"The ingredients must be cut in a standard and precise sizes, and cooked until they are the right colour.

"The ingredients for the dumplings are quite the same as the normal ones except for the tedious preparation process," she said.

Among the ingredients she used were ngo hiang hun (five spice powder), small shrimps, salted egg, fried shallots and mushrooms.

Oon added that other ingredients, such as marinating the meat and cooking the glutinous rice, had to be prepared overnight, .

"The next day, the glutinous rice together with the ingredients will be boiled for four to six hours.

"After that, the dumplings need to be steamed," Oon said.

Oon inherited the traditional way of preparing the nyonya bak chang from her mother who had learnt the technique from Oon's grandmother.

The Rice Dumpling Festival is ce­­lebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar to commemorate poet Qu Yuan who drowned himself to protest against corrupt practices in China over 1,000 years ago.

The local people, who admired him, threw rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves into the river to prevent the fish from eating his remains.

This year the festival is celebrated today. Apart from dumplings, the celebration is also marked with dragon boat races in Malaysia.

Yesterday, 10 families took part in the Straits Quay's "Dragonboat Make and Race Competition" at the retail marina in Tanjong Tokong near here in conjunction with the festival.

The dragon boats were made from egg cartons, cooking oil bottles, cardboard, old CDs and disposable plates.

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