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Jun 8, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - Dumpling Festival

Duan Wu Jie (端午节) is one of the oldest traditional festivals of China. It dated back to 2,000 years ago. The date of the festival is the 5th day of the 5th month (五月初五)  in Gregorian (Western) calendar.

Dumpling Festival is celebrated by Chinese Singaporeans on Saturday, 23 June 2012   in Singapore.

Zongzi (粽子) or simply zong is a traditional Chinese food popularly consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival, hence the name Chinese Dumpling Festival. (Zongzi) is made of glutinous rice stuffed with different filings and ingredients and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling.

Dragon Boat Festival is said to commemorates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan, a legendary Chinese poet. In Mi Lo River around 2000 years ago, he drowned himself to protest against the rulers and to stop corruption.

As respect to the poet, people throw dumplings into the river to stop fish from feeding on the poet’s body as well as make noise to scare the fish away.

In remembrance of Qu Yuan,  the Chinese Singaporeans in Singapore organize dragon boat races and eat dumplings. This day is known as the Festival of Dumpling in Singapore. The dragon boat races are known to represent the search for the poet's body.

This is a cultural festival, not directly linked to Buddhist or Taoist celebration.  However,  Zongzi are offered for ancestral worship during  端午节 for prayer on home altars or in the temples.

Zongzi vendors in the street in Singapore  c  1935
Rice dumpling in a cart at Tew Chew Street, Singapore  c  1981
Piping hot rice dumpling for sale in the 1980s

"Bak Chang" of many varieties loved by young and old.  There are also vegetarian and 'halal' meatless rice dumplings for our Muslim friends.

The ways done in the past for the "Dumpling Festival" for centuries everywhere as our Chinese culture as a tradition remains unchanged.  Its not out of fashion or out of styles for hairdos, clothings and fashion accessories which change the tastes of every new generation.

The ingredients and fillings have changed and evolved over decades like the recipes for moon cakes though.

Foodage creative ideas have been used for the fillings of durian, mango or other fruit flavors for the sweetened versions of rice dumpling; or salted versions with chicken, duck or other meats as long as the customers accepted them.
The Dumpling Festival is held annually at Chinese clan associations and community centres.  In multi-cultural Singapore,  other ethnic groups participate in this educational, colourful festival to learn the meaning of  Duan Wu Jie.

A donation of 'bak chang' (rice dumpling in Chinese) to the Woodlands Home for the Aged by President of the Singapore Council of Social Services, Mr Ee Peng Liang (second right, with tie) savouring the 'bak chang' with the residents of the Home on 24 Jun, 1974.

A kind and helpful resident helping to remove the bamboo leaf wrapping  to offer her friend a 'bak chang'.
"Hmm... yummy, I love it"
Tourists to try a taste of rice dumpling, to experience and learn our Singaporean culture.

I remember how my mother used to wrap the "bak chang" during Duan Wu Jie in the 1960s when I was a young boy in Bukit Ho Swee kampong.

My mother prepared the Hokkien version of glutinous rice cooked in black sauce with chestnut, mushroom and a small piece of  meat, wrapped with bamboo leaves.  She then tied each with raffia string and steamed the "bak chang" in a container.

My mother would spend the whole evening for several hours to cook several dozens of "bak chang" over a charcoal stove.  I couldn't help in any ways so had to wait for the "bak chang" to be ready to eat.

My mother was very good at home-cooked, delicious dishes which my family loved and enjoyed them.

After the 'bak chang" was cooked, my mother would distribute to my neighbours, a few each of the family as a gesture of  neighbourly goodwill.  Some of them gave us different types of "bak chang" in exchange.

My mother used "bak chang" as offerings to the Earth God (  地基主,又稱地主神、地主公) for prayer on 端午节.  This is an archived photo from NAS.

Here's selected archived photos with credit, acknowledgement and thanks to National Archives of Singapore (NAS) for sharing on this blog.

The following are the "Red Bean Paste Rice Dumpling" with alkaline glutinous rice with sweet red bean filling,

Personally, the rice dumpling I preferred is similar as the photos shown above, but without fillings.  Just plain alkaline glutinous rice known as "kee chang" (in Hokkien) which are smaller than the ordinary size of  Hokkien version of  "Bak Chang" with lots of  ingredients.

The "kee chang" dipped in "gula Melaka" (brown sugar from Malacca) is my best favorite.  Shiok...



Blogger Jed said...

Nice Article. It is still celebrated in the Traditional ways in taiwan.
For those people who may be visiting Taiwan during the Season,this is for your info:

June 9, 2012 at 7:00 PM  

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