June 1, 2006

Fifth Moon Festival (Dumplings)

Also known as the DuanWu festival in China. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the festival; but this was many many years ago. I was little and apprehended it as a legendary fairytale and lots of yummy dumplings to eat! Today, I went through several internet searches to read about the true origins of these dumplings and the Dragon boat Festival in Malaysia.
It all began with a great man named Qu Yuan;
Qu Yuan was a minister in the government of the state of Chu, descended of nobility and a champion of political loyalty and truth eager to maintain the Chu state's sovereignty. Qu Yuan advocated a policy of alliance with the other kingdoms of the period against the hegemonic state of Qin, which threatened to dominate them all. The Chu king, however, fell under the influence of other corrupt, jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan, and banished his most loyal counselor. It is said that Qu Yuan returned first to his family's home town. In his exile, he spent much of this time collecting legends and rearranging folk odes while traveling the countryside, producing some of the greatest poetry in Chinese literature while expressing his fervent love for his state and his deepest concern for its future. According to legend, his anxiety brought him to an increasingly troubled state of health; during his depression, he would often take walks near a certain well, during which he would look upon his reflection in the water and be his own person, thin and gaunt. In the legend, this well became known as the "Face Reflection Well." Today on a hillside in Xiangluping in Hubei province's Zigui, there is a well which is considered to be the original well from the time of Qu Yuan. In 278 BC, learning of the capture of his country's capital, Ying, by General Bai Qi of the state of Qin, Qu Yuan is said to have written the lengthy poem of lamentation called "Lament for Ying" and later to have waded into the Miluo river in today's Hunan Province holding a great rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era.
Local people, learning of his suicide, rushed out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and desperately tried to save him, but were unsuccessful. In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles. They threw rice into the water as a food offering to Qu Yuan and to distract the fish away from his body. However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that the rice meant for him was being intercepted by a huge river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. These packages became a traditional food known as zongzi, although the lumps of rice are now wrapped in bamboo leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat racing, which is held on the anniversary of his death every year. Today, people still eat rice dumplings and participate in dragon boat races to commemorate Qu Yuan's sacrifice on the Duan Wu festival, the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year (2006) it is 31/5 in the solar calendar. (source: wikipedia)

The "zhongs" came out delicious! I left out a couple of things which I didn't like in zhong; such as the green beans and the salted egg yolk...they should be included for "zhongs" to be authentic, but *shrug* I'm making them to suit my liking! Pinky loved them too! My Russian taste tester didn't quite like it though...I guess the chinese flavours and ingredients in the glutinous rice require an acquired taste.
Im pretty proud of myself; the kitchen isn't in a mess, my "zhongs" didn't burst/leak in the boiling pot, they taste good and it's my very first time! It's pretty difficult sourcing the long list of ingredients (I had to shop hop from a long row of Asian stores to find everything) and wrapping them firm and corner-hole-free is pretty fiddly. I had them pressed against my belly as I tied them up with one hand!(haha I'm such a klutz) They don't look too pretty, and I made them small as I couldn't find any large bamboo sheets. I had to make do with medium sized ones. I guess it's a good idea to start small as well; less leakage *hint hint* haha. It was worth the whole 3 1/2 hours of work. Anyone want the recipe?...It's really lengthy and I'm feeling a tad bit lazy! Heh, I'll type it up if anyone's interested though. Leave a request on comments. Back to assignments now...*sigh* Tata!


jackie said...

Hey Su yin!
Sorry didnt thank u earlier!
But here goes :
Thanx sooo sooo much for the zhongs and cake! Yummilicious~my brother thot so too :)

Su-Yin said...

glad you liked them :). It was a fairly satisfactory first attempt at zhongs hahaha, I'm jsut happy they look triangular!

CeXiCeX said...

Alright...that wasn't a bad story... all this while i just know how to eat bak chang...never knew the story..hehe... umm just to share something here...ermm..
my aunt usually mix zhong or chang with lintel beans..u know the thinggy they use to make dhal... i'm not sure..i think u kinda like soak it for a while..to make is soft or sumthing... coz if u use too much rice it'll be heaty... so after u eat then ur body heats up and ermm... pimples break out i guess...anyway... it turn our nice... kinda healthy in a way la... lintel beans... yeahh....

kassy said...

looks delicious!do u mind sharing the recipe? :)

crgrove said...


I am a Canadian living in Michigan, USA. I used to get Dumplings from my best friend's mother back in Canada... Oh how I miss them. In an attempt to make some myself I was trying to find how to fold the bamboo leaves. After quite some time searching on the net I came across your cooking blog with your photos way down at the bottom showing how it is done. Woohoo!! And after reading what you have there I think I'm in love! *big grin* So sad you are way on the other side of the earth! ;-)


Christopher Grove

delescalier said...

I would love to get this recipe - even though I am so late to the party. My nan used to make these but since she passed away, no one makes them anymore!

May said...

omg... do you still have the recipe for this? I would so love it!

Amos Ong said...

My wife made all the ingredients last evening but did not know how to wrap. She ordered me to wrap. I used two bamboo leaves for each Zongzi (or my wife called bacang). Then my daughter said it's not really triangular as it is a tetrahedron. Now my daughter is crazy about learning the hokkien song Sio Ba Zang (or bui ba cang).