Culture: Happy Dragon Boat Festival! Rice Dumpling Galore

rice dumplings dragon boat festival

It’s the day on the Lunar Calendar for Dragon Boat Festival for Duan Wu Jie to eat glutinous rice dumplings also known as zong zi in mandarin and in Hong Kong and Macau, where a crew of men and women row “dragon boats” together with a drummer seated at the base of the boat. The legend of Duan Wu Jie (端午节)begins with a famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the Milou River.

This practice of eating rice dumplings and rowing the boat shaped like a dragon was meant scare away the man eating fishes and evil spirits of the sea, celebrated annually by Chinese communities in Asia. The villagers threw rice dumplings filled with meat into the sea to prevent the body of Qu Yuan, the famous poet from being eaten. Variations of the rice dumplings are made and sold in different regions, wrapped in bamboo leaves.

bazhang rice dumplings

The usual stuffings are savory pork with chestnuts, but my all time favourite is still the sweet Nonya ones that my aunt used to make, particularly the Kueh Zhang Abu, a fraction the size of the usual dumplings without any filling and dipped in gula melaka (palm sugar).

Hope everyone is having a wonderful dragon boat festival! My mother used to wrap this every year with my maternal grandmother, and hang bunches of them from the make shift roof of our open air kitchen… until my uncle passed away. It is a family superstition that when there’s a death in the family, you should not wrap the dumplings that year and henceforth not to wrap them anymore, otherwise bad things would happen.

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