Nonya Bak Chang: Singapore-Style Dragon Boat Festival Dumplings

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bak chang

Bak Chang, also known as glutinous rice dumplings is well known among the chinese and malays. It has various fillings which can be sweet or salty. Common fillings are e.g. mung beans, char siu, chinese sausage, pork belly, chicken, taro, etc. It is usually eaten during the Dragon Boat festival which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. But you would also find changs sold here and there. They can be steamed or boiled and are wonderfull snacks for the inbetween hours or as a main dish.

1 1/2 kg glutinous rice
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Pick through the glutinous rice and discard the transparent grains. These are plain rice grains. Wash well 2 to 3 times. Soak the grains overnight in water.
2) Drain the rice grains and place in the steamer. If the holes are too large, line the bottom with a piece of cloth. Steam over high heat for 1 hour or until cooked.
3) In the meantime, mix the water with the salt. After the rice has been steamed for 20 minutes, lift the lid of the steamer and sprinkle the salt water over the rice. Mix it well with the rice.
** The dumplings should be formed and folded in the banana leaves while the rice is still warm. If it is cold, it will not bind well.

1 kg belly pork without the skin
200 g preserved winter melon, diced
10 dried mushrooms, soaked till soft, drained, squeezed dry and diced
5 tbsp lard or oil
60g garlic pounded till fine
200g shallots, pounded
1 tsp salt
300g to 350g rock sugar (or taste)
1 1/2 tbsp white pepper powder
4 tbsp dark soya sauce
6 tbsp coriander powder

1) Traditionally, the dumplings are formed into the shape of a pyramid with a three-sided base. You have to pack the dumpling so that the glutinous rice is very firm. For those who just like the flavor, line the bottom of the casserole with pandan leaves, top with some fillings and cover the glutinous rice. Pack it down very tight, top with pandan leaves, and steam.
2) Purists will have to do it the right way. Tie 17 raffia strings measuring about 40 cm long together on a pole.
3) Trim both ends of each banana leaf. fold it over to form a pocket. Place about half a handful of glutinous rice in the pocket and spread it out to form a hollow. Fill the hollow with the filling and fold the top over using your other hand to push both sides in.
4) Fold the two sides of the leaf over the dumpling and cut off the excess leaf. Tie with raffia to secure. Trim off the leaves to form neat parcels. When all the dumplings are formed, remove from the pole and plait the end of the strings together.
5) Boil for 2 hours, remove and hang to dry. The dumplings are usually eaten the next day and can keep for up to 4 days outside the fridge. If you like them hot, just steam them again before eating.

bak chang