The upcoming Dragon Boat Festival on the 7th of June this year marks the beginning of the summer solstice!

dragon boat festival
Image credit: Sam Sith

While the merriment is mostly recognized for the namesake Dragon Boat races, where teams will perform and contest in boats decorated with dragon heads, the celebration is also commemorated with glutinous rice dumplings known locally as bachang.

As one of the oldest traditional food of the Chinese culture, the bachang has roots in dragon-worship, and the remembrance of beloved Chinese poet Qu Yuan. It is said that the bachang (known as zongzi in mainland China) was made to ward off sea inhabitants from eating Qu Yuan’s body after the man committed suicide rather than surrender to Qin militants.

local bachang
Image credit: Alpha

Served wrapped in pandan or bamboo leaves, the bachang dumplings are dense sticky rice encompassing fillings of red bean and tapioca paste. Some may serve it with additional fillings of pork, Chinese sausage, chestnuts, or mushrooms for variation.

Glutinous rice is formed into a cone-like shape around the fillings and steamed or boiled for several hours depending on its mixture, held together with the leaf wrap. Many might note its similarity to the nasi lemak style of packaging!

bachang inside
Image credit: Alpha

The bachang is eaten as a seasonal festive meal, although some Chinese cultures serve the dumpling all year round. And with the many distinct cultures from the many regions of Asia, the bachang has a fantastic range of flavours. To identify them, take notice of their size and scent! Dumplings influenced by the Northern side of China tend to be on the sweeter side, while Southern-style dumplings have more savory profiles.

Please do take care to note that the glutinous rice mixture may not be suitable for people with indigestion problems.

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