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Digest Dragon Boat Festival 2020: Delicious Rice Dumplings In The Klang Valley

Dragon Boat Festival 2020: Delicious Rice Dumplings In The Klang Valley

Photo: Mae Mu / Unsplash
Photo: Mae Mu / Unsplash
By Samantha Lim
By Samantha Lim
June 16, 2020
Providing a nostalgic link to one's Chinese roots, bak zhang, zong zi, nom chang, ma chang or sticky rice dumplings are widely eaten in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and anywhere Chinese migrants might have put down roots

Romantically associated with the poet Qu Yuan, who chose a watery death when his beloved kingdom was invaded by enemy forces, zhang was allegedly invented to serve two purposes: to prevent fish from feasting on Yuan's corpse, and to appease the poet's restless spirit. As legend goes, the dumpling's pyramid shape is deliberately complex—all the better to dissuade the river dragon from devouring Yuan's offerings. As an extra precaution, the villagers designed their boats to resemble even fiercer dragons—thus was born the Dragon Boat Festival, a show of stamina staged during the summer solstice.

It isn't just rowers who get to flex their muscles this time of year; Chinese chefs get to show off their skills at the stove. The venerated art of zhang is a laborious process mastered by few, hence their high sales volume annually.

The writer's grandmother cleaning lotus leaves ahead of making bakzhang. Photo: Samantha Lim
The writer's grandmother cleaning lotus leaves ahead of making bakzhang. Photo: Samantha Lim

The Venerated Art Of Zhang

So fluid and rapid were her hand movements that they reminded her grandchildren of hummingbirds in flight. Every functional fold, every snip of the scissors, and every calculated crease was carried out in a half-trance borne of habitude. Prior to that, glutinous rice had to be soaked, pork marinated, beans rinsed, and chestnuts cleaned.

Not unlike Christmas cakes (eg. Panettone, Stolen and Yule logs) that are served throughout the month of December, sticky rice dumplings are too good a treat to be eaten in the singular. Few can actually wait until the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar to unwrap their lotus leaf parcels; zhang is eaten as soon as they are steamed. They last for months in the freezer, and feel like a godsend whenever you're ravenous.

Most Chinese families have their own fiercely guarded zhang recipe, but if the memory of its taste is lost to you, seek out a slice of nostalgia in the following restaurants' versions:

1/4 Troika Sky Dining

Chermoula Chicken, Coconut & Blue Pea Flower Glutinous Rice Dumpling. Photo: Pierre-Andre Clergue
Chilli Beef Brisket 3 Grains Dumpling. Photo: Pierre-Andre Clergue
Catfish Char Siew Glutinous Rice Dumpling. Photo: Pierre-Andre Clergue
Mr Chew's Dumplings. Photo: Pierre-Andre Clergue
 

Tinted a delicate blue using butterfly pea flowers, the Chermoula chicken and coconut dumpling from Mr Chew's Chino Latino Bar is one of three seasonal dumplings available this year. Chef Mischa's contemporary creations include a beef brisket dumpling with toothsome morsels of shiitake mushrooms as well as a catfish char siew dumpling—a sweet and sticky delight we greatly enjoyed picking apart with our chopsticks.

A full meal unto itself, each dumpling is served with mouthwatering pickles (winter melon, pumpkin chestnut or white fungus passionfruit) and salsas (Cameron Highland pearl corn and coconut kerabu, black bean avocado, or green papaya somtam).

Price & Delivery Details

RM28 per dumpling or RM100 for 4 dumplings. Order online before June 25, 2020.

TATLER TIP: Containing neither eggs nor soy products, Mr Chew's chicken dumpling is also suited to gluten-intolerant gourmands.

2/4 Shanghai @ JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

Photo: JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur
Photo: JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

Premium ingredients, including pork air-flown from Spain and fragrant osmanthus flowers, are incorporated in Shanghai's glutinous rice dumplings. Start with the savoury dumpling, which is studded with pork and golden orbs of salted egg yolk, before ending on a sweet note; the osmanthus zhang contains not one or three, but five types of beans.

To Order

WhatsApp +6018-591 8537 or WeChat @ShanghaiJWMKL before June 25, 2020. Shanghai's dumplings are also available at Li Yen, The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.

Shanghai

Restaurant, $$, Chinese, Bukit Bintang

Book Online

3/4 Li Yen @ The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

Photo: The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur
Photo: The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

Famed for its double-boiled soups and dim sum, Li Yen makes memorable glutinous rice dumplings following Cantonese tradition. This year's offerings include a savoury duck and chestnut dumpling as well as a dessert dumpling with lotus or red bean paste.

To Order

WhatsApp +6018-646 8033 or WeChat @LiYenRCKL before June 25, 2020.

 

Li Yen

Restaurant, $$, Chinese, Bukit Bintang

Book Online

4/4 Tao Chinese Cuisine @ InterContinental Kuala Lumpur

Photo: InterContinental Kuala Lumpur
Photo: InterContinental Kuala Lumpur

Ever a practical gift, glutinous rice dumplings store well in the freezer, especially those made with TLC at Tao. Choose from brown rice dumplings with morel mushrooms and abalone, or the chef's special Nyonya dumplings; unlikely to be found anywhere else, the latter contains a unique filling of shrimp and diced chicken.

Price & Delivery Details

Brown Rice with Morel Mushrooms & Abalone, RM45; Spicy Nyonya Glutinous Rice Dumpling, RM18. Order online, call +603-2782 6128 / 6000 or email foodandbeverage@intercontinental-kl.com.my before June 25, 2020.

Tags

Digest zhongzi bak zhang rice dumplings dragon boat festival Chinese food

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