To celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, make your own lotus leaf glutinous rice dumplings, or bak chang.
For starters, give yourself a whole day to make these rice dumplings.
Prepare the braised pork a day ahead, which allows more time for the pork to steep in the aromatic braising sauce and become even more flavourful.
Using both lotus and bamboo leaves also imparts a delicate, tea-like flavour and aroma to the filling.
Ahead, the ingredients and steps are segmented into different parts for ease of understanding. (No time to make? Get these store-bought ones which also made great gifts.)
Bak Chang in A Parcel: An Easier Way To Wrap
Unless you are an origami artist, folding the dumpling the traditional way requires some patience and practice.
If you’re keen on making homemade rice dumplings, but stumped by how to wrap the pyramid-shaped bak chang, skip it.
Try this easy alternative: Just fold the lotus leaf over the dumpling – like you would a parcel. This method is more practical and less time-consuming.
Save your effort for the lotus leaf glutinous rice dumplings, which take a fair amount of work to put together.
INGREDIENTS FOR WRAPPING
- 6 whole lotus leaves
- 24 dried bamboo leaves
- 12 salted egg yolks, halved
- 12 dried reed strings
INGREDIENTS FOR GLUTINOUS RICE
- 1 kg glutinous rice, rinsed and soaked for three hours
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1½ tsp five spice powder
- 2 tbsps fish sauce
- 4 tbsps sesame oil
- 120 ml water
INGREDIENTS FOR MUNG BEAN PASTE
- 600 g split mung beans, rinsed and soaked for three hours
- 250 ml water, divided
- 1 flat tsp sugar
- 2 flat tsp salt
- 70 ml oil
INGREDIENTS FOR BRAISED PORK
- 880 g pork collar, cut into 3.5 cm by 3.5 cm pieces
- 68 g rock sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1½ star anise
- 8 cloves
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 piece of dried Mandarin orange peel (1g)
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 whole garlic cloves (37g), lightly bruised
- 23 g galangal, lightly bruised
- 15 g ginger, lightly bruised
- 600 ml water
- 1 tsp five spice powder
- 1 tbsp light soya sauce
- 4 tbsps dark soya sauce
- 19 g spring onion
- 15 g fresh coriander
- 3 flat tsp salt
INGREDIENTS FOR CHESTNUTS
- 1 litre water
- 24 raw shelled chestnuts (168 g)
INGREDIENTS FOR SHIITAKE, DRIED PRAWNS AND SCALLOPS
- 4 tbsps cooking oil
- 4 garlic cloves (24 g), chopped
- 12 shallots (200 g), sliced
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms (54g), soaked in hot water until softened then sliced
- 100 g dried prawns, soaked
- 80 g dried baby scallops, soaked
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
PREPARING THE LOTUS LEAF WRAPPERS
1. Bring a wok of water to a boil.
2. Blanch the lotus leaves for 3 minutes until softened. Remove from the wok.
3. Add the dried bamboo leaves and blanch for 2 minutes until they are soft. Remove from the wok. Turn off the heat and discard the water.
4. Rinse the lotus and bamboo leaves and dry with a piece of cloth.
5. Cut each lotus leaf into quarters.
6. Trim the ends of the bamboo leaves.
HOW TO PREPARE THE GLUTINOUS RICE
1. Place the glutinous rice in a bowl.
2. Add the salt, sugar, five-spice powder, fish sauce, sesame oil and water. Mix well.
3. Steam the rice for an hour.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MUNG BEAN PASTE
1. Place the split mung beans in a deep heat-proof bowl.
2. Add 100ml of water and steam for 40 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked beans to a mixing bowl.
4. Add sugar and salt. Mix and mash the beans.
5. Add the oil and mash.
6. Add the remaining 150ml of water and mash into a paste. The paste does not have to be totally smooth.
HOW TO COOK BRAISED PORK
1. Blanch the pork to remove impurities and leftover blood. Rinse and set aside.
2. In a claypot, over low heat, add the rock sugar and allow it to caramelise. Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, green cardamom pods, black cardamom pods, dried Mandarin orange peel, white peppercorns and bay leaves. Heat for 30 seconds and add the blanched pork. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
3. Add the garlic cloves, galangal and ginger.
4. Add the water, five-spice powder, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, spring onion, fresh coriander and salt.
5. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 50 minutes. Set aside.
HOW TO COOK CHESTNUTS
1. Bring the water to a boil in a pot.
2. Place the chestnuts in the pot and boil over medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
3. Remove from the pot and discard the water. Rinse the chestnuts. 4. Remove any remaining bits of skin on the chestnuts. Set aside.
HOW TO COOK SHIITAKE, DRIED PRAWNS AND SCALLOPS
1. Heat the oil over high heat. Fry the garlic and shallots for 45 seconds.
2. Add the mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes over medium-low heat.
3. Add the dried prawns and fry for 45 seconds.
4. Add the dried baby scallops and fry for 1 minute.
5. Add the ground white pepper and fry for another minute.
6. Turn off the heat and set aside.
ASSEMBLING THE RICE DUMPLINGS
1. On a flat surface, take two quarters of lotus leaf and place one piece on top of the other.
2. Place two bamboo leaves on top, slightly overlapping each other, in the middle of the lotus leaves.
3. In a small rice bowl, place two salted egg yolk halves, with the sliced sides facing up, and a chestnut.
4. Add 4 Tbs of mung bean paste and a chestnut.
5. Add three to four pieces of braised pork.
6. Add 2 Tbs of the shiitake, dried prawns and scallops.
7. Top with about 150g of glutinous rice.
8. Overturn the bowl of rice in the centre of the lotus and bamboo leaves.
9. Fold the sides over to form a parcel and secure with reed string.
10. Do the same for each dumpling.
11. Steam the lotus leaf rice dumplings for two hours and 15 minutes. Serve hot.
12. To keep the dumplings, allow to cool and place in a resealable bag or airtight container. Keep refrigerated for up to five days.
13. To reheat, take out of the fridge for 15 minutes and steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
ABOUT THE CHEF: Hedy Khoo is the columnist for The New Paper’s HED CHEF that features Asian cuisine and recipes. You can follow Hedy on her Instagram account @hedchefhedykhoo for more of her culinary adventures.
Text and recipe: Hedy Khoo / Photo: The New Paper