By now, the whole world must have heard of Dragon Boat festival. It consistently falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar calendar. Translate that to Gregorian calendar, it falls on June 2 for this year of 2014.
When I was a child, I read in my Chinese textbook the story behind the eating of this sticky rice dumpling event. There are a few versions of the story but I’ll summarize what I read.
There was a scholar who was loved by his friends and family. One day, he went to give advise to the king but was ignored. And so he was forced to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river. His friends and family was devastated and try to save him by throwing sticky rice dumplings into the river in hope that the fish ate it instead of eating his body.
To be honest, I still don’t know which is the real version. But it has now become a tradition that we ate sticky rice dumpling as a tribute.
The dumpling itself has a few varieties. It can be savory or with sweet fillings. My favorite, is my grandmother’s. Awww…
She lovingly made each one to give to her children and grandchildren, giving the dumpling a richness of flavor. Her version uses glutinous rice which has been soaked overnight, drained, and stir fry it in soy sauce and spices until the grains has soaked all the flavor.
The filling contains:
– chestnut: boiled until tender
– pork: cooked in five spices and soy sauce
– dried mushroom: soaked and cooked together with the pork
– chinese sausage (lap cheong)
– dried shrimps: rehydrated and lightly stir fried. (It will absorb the juices from the other ingredients as the dumpling steams).
Then comes the hard part, wrapping it in dried bamboo leaves and tying it up. I watched a news report once and they said that wrapping dumplings is a dying culinary art. There are some elderlies who master the art of wrapping dumpling, but never passed it down to their grandchildren because it is hard and they don’t want their grandchildren to “suffer.”
These days, the dumpling can be wrapped in whatever way as long as it doesn’t leak. I’ve seen some square-wrapped ones. And there have been so too many new ingredients combo over the years. I can list them all now, but let’s make turn that in for another day. Perhaps, we will make our own next year.