These are the most common rice dumplings in Singapore and Malaysia. They are sold everywhere and really cheap too. They are salty and normally done by Hokkiens, and contrast to the nyonya ones that are sweet and done by the Peranakans.
Making dumpling is really quite easy. The main flavour from these kinds of rice dumplings are from the five spices powder and also the various fresh ingredients in the dumpling.
Dumplings must be oily so that they do not stick to the bamboo leaves, I like to use oil rendered from pork lard. The rice must be very well seasoned (to the point of overseasoned), the ingredients well proportioned and the water that the dumplings cook in must be heavily salted so that osmosis does not render the dumplings tasteless. In addition, dumplings must be full of ingredients, or ‘liao’ (料) instead of just rice. The shape is extremely important. Take time to make them really triangular and regular, and don’t tie them too tight so that they do not have a ‘waist’. That must also be balanced off with not tying them too loosely or they will fall apart while cooking.
Make lots of them, then spread the love by sharing them with your relatives and friends. I remember that my Second Aunt (二姑) would always bring them to our house during the festivities. I would always look forward to hers because she had salted egg yolks in hers. In the 1960s and 1970s, Singapore was a third world country and we were poor. Having an egg yolk in a dumpling was such a luxury.
Give away to the less fortunate or those who may not be enjoying the love of their families during this festive season. 端午节 or the dumpling festival is about the love for a Patriot, 屈原。Let’s remember his story and the beauty of our heritage.
Kiam Zhang or Bak Zhang
- 40 bamboo leaves boiled for 20 minutes to soften, the wiped dry, and trim hard stalks away
- 20 pieces of 40 to 50cm straws or string tied to 2 bunches
- 1 kg glutinuous rice washed and then soaked in water to cover with 3 Tbsp of salt for at least 30 minutes
- 1/2 cup of oil rendered from pork lard
- 15 cloves of garlic minced
- 4 big onions minced
- 1/2 cup of red beans soaked for at least 30 minutes (optional)
- 1 kg pork belly remove skin and fat to render for the rice (see above), cut the rest into 20 pieces
- 10 rehydrated dried shitake mushrooms stalk removed and cut into half
- 20 chestnuts soak dried ones or scald fresh ones, remove all traces of membrane
- 20 dried prawns deep fried to light brown
- 10 raw salted egg yolks cut half
- 5 Tbsp deep fried sliced shallots either store bought or made with frying sliced small red shallots to light brown
- 2 Tbsp five spice powder
- 4 Tbsp black soya sauce
- 2 Tbsp light soya sauce
- 2 Tbsp pepper
- 4 Tbsp Oyster sauce
- Mix all the seasonings together, divide into 2 portions.
- In a pan, heat up the lard, and then add the onions and garlic and fry till light brown.
- Add the soaked rice and then one portion of the seasonings.
- Stir through and set aside to cool.
- The ingredients are not mixed together, use a tablespoon of seasoning for the mushrooms, and the rest for the pork.
- So, in separate containers, you have rice, pork, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried prawns, salted eggs and fried shallots.
- Set the water to boil in a pressure cooker before you start wrapping the dumplings. The water must be oversalted and add a tablespoon or two of oil to it.
- When you gather the dumpling, put a tablespoon of rice in first, then sprinkle some shallots, 1 piece of pork, 1/2 mushroom, 1 piece of dried prawn, 1 piece of chestnut, 1/2 salted egg yolk, sprinkle a few red beans if using. Top off with rice and then wrap up.
- Fully submerge the dumplings in the boiling water, add a tablespoon of oil to the water and then cook for 30 minutes under high pressure.
- Drain the water completely when dumplings are cooked.
- This recipe makes 20 huge dumplings. Enjoy!
This video shows you how to wrap the dumplings the way I do it. There are many videos out there that wrap them differently, or don’t really show you how. Firstly, note that I use 2 leaves, not one like some videos. I don’t know why, I was taught that way, and my dumplings have never leaked since I started making them 26 years ago.
Secondly, the first fold of the dumpling is really important. Then, you must attempt to wrap them into a regular shape, take your time. Lastly, don’t tie too tight to get a regular shaped dumpling. That’s it.