By Wilfred Pilo
RICE DUMPLING — called `bak chang’ in the Hokkien dialect — is a very common traditional ‘kuih’ sold daily in most coffee shops here and elsewhere in the country.
Delicious, it can be taken at any time of the day, and it goes well with Chinese tea or other beverages. But keep in mind that it is very filling.
This delight is made of glutinous rice, stuffed with different fillings, such as shredded pork, shrimps, peanuts, chestnuts, salted duck egg yolk and mushroom and wrapped in bamboo leaves before hitting the cooking pot.
In fact, today (June 7) is a very special day for `bak chang’ as the Chinese the world over celebrates `Duanwu Festival’, also known as `Dragon Boat Festival’. This festival has been observed annually for over 2,000 years in China to commemorate Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), an ancient Chinese patriotic poet in the Chu Kingdom.
The festival is celebrated near the Summer Solstice, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June). The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date of the festival varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar.
According to history, Qu Yuan committed suicide by throwing himself into a river as he cannot convince the corrupted Chu Kingdom official to change. Legend has it that ordinary citizens of the kingdom who adored and supported his doctrines rushed out in their boats, beat their drums and splashed water to keep the evil spirits from his body. They also threw chunks of rice into the river to deter the fish from eating his corpse.
So, every year since then, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.
DayakDaily stopped at a shop in Padungan that sells rice dumpling and spoke to the shop proprietor, who wanted to be identified only as `Kelvin’.
“We offer several popular varieties of rice dumpling as the festival approaches. The Chinese bought it to fill their stomachs or for prayers,” he said.
Kelvin revealed that he got his supply from a ‘kuih’ maker. Some of the dumplings are filled with meat and veggies, while others boast shrimps and red beans.
“We also sell those with `sambal’ fillings or meat with Chinese mushroom, peanuts, water chestnut, duck egg yolks. They go for RM5 each,” he said. “Unfortunately, the demand for `bak chang’ is lower this year, probably due to the economic downturn.”
However, his shop offers rice dumplings every day, as it is a favourite delicacy among his customers. — DayakDaily