Monday, June 6, 2011
Today is Rice Dumpling (Dragon Boat) Festival.
Although bak chung (rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves) is one of my favourite snacks which is available throughout the year in most Asian stores in Sydney, but I do not normally buy this traditional rice dumpling to eat except during the Dragon Boat festival which is celebrated today in many Asian countries like China, Hong Kong and South East Asian countries with a large Chinese community. Strange as it may seem, eating bak chung on any other day is likened to eating Christmas pudding at any other times of the year.
Growing up in Singapore as a child, I can vividly remember, each year, as the month of Fifth month of the Lunar calendar approaches, every traditional Chinese household became busier than usual , thrown into a frenzy activity in the kitchen by the bak chung making season. It was customary to exchange dumplings among friends, neighbours and relatives as early as one week before the festival. My mother would make it a point to have the dumplings on the day itself and also offered the dumplings to the dearly departed ancestors. This traditional culinary event falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar to commemorate a Chinese patriot and poet Qu Yuan who committed suicide by throwing himself into the Mi Luo River on the fifth day of the lunar month. The legend goes that when the villagers heard of the suicide, they immediately raced in their boat to search for him. Thus began the tradition of having dragon boat races until today. It is also told that when the poet’s body could not be found, the villagers started throwing dumplings into the river to divert the fish from eating the patriot. Another explanation is that the rice dumpling was thrown as an offering for Qu Yuan. Whatever the reason, eating bak chung have become an integral part of the Dragon boat festival just like Christmas pudding is to the Yuletide festival.
My wife and I have just finished wrapping three dozen of bak chung and they are now boiling in a big pot in the kitchen to be ready for afternoon tea and tonight’s dinner. For the recipe and how to wrap a bak chung, please click on my previous posting on the right hand side of this page.
Photos of today’s bak chung will be posted once they are cooked.