Ready yourselves for Duan Wu Jie, the Dragonboat and Rice Dumpling Festival, with this tasty array of bak changs to gorge on
By Cheryl Chia
Duan Wu Jie, the Chinese Dragonboat and Rice Dumpling Festival, is upon us in a mere week’s time. Those tasty rice dumplings, commonly known as bak chang, are rapidly growing in seasonal popularity.
Historically, bak chang is eaten to commemorate Qu Yuan, a renowned and respected poet who drowned himself in a tragic incident. He took his life at the time when the ancient city of Chu was taken over by the Qin.
Villagers hoping to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body threw the rice dumplings or bak chang into the river in order to distract and fill the fish, while they raced to his body on their narrow boats. Thus began the tradition of dragonboating and feasting on bak chang.
Since the olden days, the fillings for bak changs have evolved and have been getting more and more varied, and more and more bold.
While there are a few common types of chang, there have been an increasing number of experimental or novel fillings and flavours over the years.
Here are a number of bak changs that we’ve found and tried for you
Daun Pandan Rice Dumpling
With outlets dotted around Singapore, the closest one to the city would be the one located in the basement of Bugis Junction. We tried the Nonya Chilli ($3.20) bak chang and the traditional Cantonese ($3.20) dumpling.
The Cantonese dumpling was filled with lean pork, a salted egg yolk and covered with white glutinous rice. But, we liked the Nonya Chilli bak chang, as the spiciness from the chilli paste cut through the sweetness of the traditional nonya bak chang, giving it an aromatic kick.
Bugis Junction, B1-K13, Tel: 6884 9973
Hua Ting Restaurant
Hua Ting’s interesting array includes an Assorted Bean Dumpling with Stewed Venison and Tendon ($12.80), and the Five Grains Dumpling with Wild Mushroom ($8.80). The tendon was a bit slimy in texture, but altogether it is quite flavourful.
We also liked their Rice Dumpling with Roasted Meat Hong Kong Style ($17.80) with roasted duck, salted egg, scallops, meat, mushrooms, chestnuts and lotus seeds.
Hua Ting Restaurant, Orchard Hotel, Level 2
Eastern Rice Dumpling
The original outlet is located in Balestier but Eastern Rice Dumpling can be found in various malls and supermarkets. You can even order online, if you would like to place a bulk order. This dumpling stall is more than 30 years old and has updated its menu to include Black Pepper Chicken ($2.70) dumplings, Mini Nonya ($1.30) dumplings and Vegetarian Nonya ($2.30) dumplings.
The vegetarian dumpling was a good find, with the mock meat within lightly-spiced for a slight kick that complemented the sweetness of the ‘meat’. The mini-sized meat dumplings were also a great alternative to the large ones.
Visit www.easternricedumpling.com for more.
Kim Choo Kueh Chang
With a rich history, having been open since 1945, the Peranakan Kim Choo Kueh Chang has steadily grown from their main outlet at Joo Chiat Place. They have since branched out into East Coast Road, and have also become a fixture, greeting tourists, at Changi Airport.
‘Kueh Chang’ is actually the Peranakan version of the term ‘bak chang’. Peranakan kueh changs have their own unique character and taste.
Try Kim Choo Kueh Chang’s XO Bak Chang ($7) and the Chilli Prawn Chang ($4.50). Kim Choo’s rice dumplings are a bit oilier than the rest, but the rice was softer and less chewy as compared to the other dumplings. We also liked the Nonya Chicken Chang ($3), a less fatty take on the pork-filled nonya bak chang.
Visit www.kimchoo.com for more.
This year’s selection from Cherry Garden at the Mandarin Oriental tantalises the taste buds. The Wild and Red Yeast Rice Dumpling with Chicken ($16) has a pungent scent of ginger and pieces of tender chicken. If you like the taste of ginger chicken, this one is for you.
For a unique filling and flavours, try the Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Lychee and Yorkshire Pork Belly ($16). The sweet taste of the dried lychees cuts through the fattiness of the pork belly. It is definitely a change from the usual meat and groundnut-filled dumplings.
If you prefer something a bit more traditional, a signature classic of Cherry Garden, the Golden Pearl Dumpling ($20), has an extravagant filling of premium ingredients such as slow-braised abalone, dried scallop, pork belly, mung beans, mushrooms, chestnuts, salted egg yolk and lotus seeds. You can imagine the range of flavours within this unique bak chang.
Cherry Garden is located at Mandarin Oriental on Level 5.