Monday, June 6, 2011

In Memory of a Dead Ancient Chinese Poet. Not Really.

Today is the Rice Dumpling Festival, or, in Mandarin, the Duānwǔ Jié. During this festival, the Chinese celebrate it by making (and of course, eating) yummy glutinous rice dumplings.

Although there are many stories and myths regarding the origins of this festival, I vaguely remember the one told by my Chinese teacher Mrs. Tan (when I took Chinese tuition lessons a couple of years ago :P)

Let's hear a little story first eh? :D

Qu Yuan was a highly respected person who also served in the palace as the Emperor of China's right-hand man and counsel. His wise words and advice were sought after by the Emperor in times of doubt and uncertainty. This trust by the Emperor was envied by others who served in the palace, and they anxiously waited for an opportunity to strip Qu Yuan of his position.

When the Emperor was deliberating over the decision to join forces with a neighbouring nation, the evil men who hated Qu Yuan spread nasty rumours about him, saying that Qu Yuan had claimed the Emperor was silly for even considering it, and completely opposed the alliance between the two nations. Unfortunately, despite his close relationship with Qu Yuan, the Emperor believed the lies and rumours and banished Qu Yuan from the royal palace for treason.

Qu Yuan was heartbroken over losing the Emperor's trust and his honourable reputation, being called a national traitor instead of the patriot he was. When that neighbouring country eventually conquered their nation, in despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The people, who still admired this fallen patriot and poet, threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fish so that they would not feed on Qu Yuan's body.

And this is what is popularly believed to be the myth behind the Rice Dumpling Festival :)

So, to commemorate Qu Yuan's death, we made rice dumplings! :D

Okay, I know you know me well enough to know that I did not make rice dumplings to commemorate some ancient Chinese poet's death.

Rice dumplings are yummy. And that's reason enough to make them! :P

This year, my grandma and aunts decided to make our own dumplings instead of buying them at crazy-expensive prices elsewhere.

So, I tagged along to help :)

There are many different "styles" of making rice dumplings, with an assortment of ingredients. But some of the ones we used here are typical in a glutinous rice dumpling you can find anywhere else.

1. Glutinous rice, uncooked, fried with soy sauce in the wok

2. Yummy pork--the fatter, the better!
(My grandma cooks the best pork! The fat literally melts in your mouth!)
(I know I must sound completely disgusting, but if you've tasted melt-in-your-mouth 
fatty pork before, you'd totally understand! Right???)

3. Dried shrimp

4. Juicy mushrooms, or 'dong gu' :)

5. Water chestnuts, boiled

6. Black-eyed beans
(I love these in rice dumplings! :D)

7. Chick beans

8. Salted egg yolks
(We only use the yolks, no whites)

So we set up "shop" in the kitchen. The preparation was already a killer (my poor grandma and aunts spent hours cooking, frying, boiling, cutting, slicing etc.) but the most challenging part was yet to come.

All the ingredients set and ready to be stuffed into the 'ketupat'! xD

Folding the leaves for the dumplings before boiling them was not an easy task. It took me ages to just get one done >.<

You had to fold the leaves just so, and then put rice, all the ingredients (and a little gravy) and top it off with more rice.

Folding them so that none of the rice or ingredients fall out, and that it remains in a nice triangular/pyramidal shape requires some real kungfu, I must say, one that I do not possess.

My first complete rice dumpling! Stuffed and folded by moi :D

Then you have to boil all these in a huge pot for almost two hours.

Even with five of us working: all stuffing and folding and tying and then boiling, it took us almost a whole day to finish.

Our hard day's work--140 rice dumplings!
Yes, you read it right.

We spent 6 hours just to stuff and fold the dumplings.

Our reward: Yummy rice dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Now that we know how much work is actually involved in making these rice dumplings, we decided we will never complain about the prices they sell them at anymore.

And we also decided to never do this again. Too much work! >.<

(No wonder it's a dying art. =.=)

Oh, and btw, our rice dumplings were absolutely yummeh~ (And I'm not being biased or anything. Really!) :D


k0k s3n w4i said...

I totally agree with what you said about fatty pork! Anyhow, I prefer dumplings which don't have salted eggs in them. I find lap cheong to be a tastier condiment.

And in Malacca, we have the blue-and-white nyonya dumplings too :D

k0k s3n w4i said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Liz said...

>>k0k s3n w4i

Blue and white Nyonya dumplings sound AWESOME ! Never tried one before though :P And why don't you like the salted eggs? They're the BEST !!!! xD

k0k s3n w4i said...

i have nothing against the taste of salted egg per se, but i can't stand the texture. they feel like pieces of dried mud. i just don't like eggs in general.

the nyonya dumplings have delicious mincemeat in their centres, and i vaguely recall some having coconut rinds sweetened with gula melaka as fillings too.

Liz said...

Ahaha, awwww mannnn. I love eggs man. I grew up eating soft-boiled eggs for breakfast before school with a cup of hot Milo :D LOVE all eggs, scrambled, steamed anythingggg :)

Waaaaa, terliur la, thinking about Nyonya dumplings now ! Send one over !!!! xD

hannah khaw said...

SO YUMMY I'm going to dieeee!