Dumpling Bonds

By Joanna Goh - Thursday, Jun 05, 2014

It’s always about the family, not really the rice dumplings. No matter how busy they all are, almost everyone, through four generations in the Loh family comes together on this occasion to make bak chang or dumplings. They do it from scratch, save from planting for the leaves, everything is done slow food movement style, no shortcuts.


Of course this labour of love yields a better result, they will tell you, because it is made with love with meaning. Amidst the hustle and bustle and the commercialisation of that humble bak chang, it warms the heart to know that this extended four generation family uses the Dragon Boat Festival to bond. They make up to an estimated 2-3 hundred dumplings each year.


From the Loh family to you – a pictorial insight to their yearly routine of making Cantonese homemade rice dumplings. Hum along “the more we get together, together , together…”


Bamboo leaves are first washed and soaked to remove the dirt. This step takes a few hours and is usually done the day before.


Glutinous rice is cooked and cooled in a bamboo weaved basket. The basket drains out excess water from the glutinous rice.


Shallots are first diced and fried and afterwards the glutinous rice is added in. Spices and sauces are added slowly, step by step and stir fried till flavour are evenly distributed.\\\\\\\\\\\


The senior male in the Loh family then starts the fire, using the traditional charcoal stoves – like how they had been doing since day one.


Patiently fanning and waiting for the fire to glow.


Ingredients are placed orderly and neatly on the table. By now, this family knows just how much ingredients are needed for each dumpling


Only the perfect bamboo leaves are used, naturally, for auspicious reasons. No holes, no tears or torn ones are used.


For the Cantonese rice dumplings – they add chestnuts.


The necessary meat(pork with fat), mushroom and fried dried shrimp stuffings.


It’s a wrap but this party has just start… the wrapping session begins here and all are involved.


First prepare two bamboo leaves.


Fold it into a cone and fill it rice, ingredients and then top it off with rice.


That crucial pinch when folding the dumpling – it determines the shape and only the skillful in the family produces firm triangular ends for the dumpling.


The way it is tied is important too – too tightly and the dumplings will burst when it is boiled. Too loose and the rice dumplings will fall apart in the pot.


When one bundle is completed, loose ends of the bamboo leaves and strings are trimmed off.


The bundles will then be set aside and ribbons will be place to indicate which family made it. This is to ensure everyone gets a share at the end of the day.


Once the water boils, it is time to cook the dumplings. This takes about 1-2 hours.


Dumplings are slowly placed in.


Let it cook for an hour or so and remove it from the pot. Grandfather made an ingenious tool to help remove the dumplings. It can be pretty dangerous, hence the reason why the men volunteer for this task.


It’s not done just yet. It’s removed from the pot so that the ones at the bottom will not be overcooked. They let it cool for awhile and place it back in again.


Let it boil for another hour or two and it is done! Here comes the glorious moment.


Let it cool on the rack and wait for the excess water to drip away.


Time to reap the rewards of their labour and celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. Just revel in that piece of tender meat with mushroom and moist textured rice. Let’s eat.