Glutinous rice dumplings, or bazhang as it is more commonly known here in Singapore, is a Chinese delicacy enjoyed by many, whose origins date back to the tragic tale of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a poet and a minister, who lived in the state of Chu during the period of the Zhou dynasty. Having been banished due to the machinations of a political opponent, Qu Yuan went into exile, writing poems and expressing his concerns on the issues of the state. In time, his country’s capital was captured by an enemy state, and Qu Yuan was believed to have committed suicide in the nearby Miluo river as an act of piety to his deeply beloved state. The story then goes that the villagers, moved by Qu Yuan’s martyrdom, searched the river for his body. Failing which, the villagers devised a plan and threw rice dumplings into the water in the hopes that the fishes would eat the dumplings and leave Qu Yuan’s body alone. Other methods they employed were of making loud noises and splashing water with their paddles so as to scare the fishes away. Thus, this led to the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, to commemorate Qu Yuan’s sacrifice. And as you would expect, bazhang is a must have for this celebration.
However, truth be told, traditional bazhang are delightful, yet extremely unhealthy. What with all the oil, salt, and spices that go into it, it probably wouldn’t have any place in your healthy diet. But what if there were healthier choices for bazhang? You might not have to forgo this necessary delicacy on the Dragon Boat Festival after all! The main thing is to substitute the standard glutinous rice for healthier brown rice. Here’s how you can make your own healthier choice bazhang!
These ingredients will make about 20 bazhang:
3 cups brown rice – Make sure to soak overnight
80 g peanut and 80 g red bean – boiled
5 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2-3 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking oil
2-3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
300 g lean pork or chicken breast – diced
10 mushrooms – cut into halves
1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder – a mixed of cinnamon, cloves, ground funnel seeds, sichuan pepper and star anise
2-3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (or sugar)
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1-2 tsp sesame oil
Bamboo leaves (2-3 for each dumpling) – wash thoroughly and soak water
Strings of Hemp (1 for each dumpling)
Make sure that the leaves and strings for the wrappings are prepared in advance.
Marinade the meat and mushrooms with the prepared seasonings overnight.
Start on the brown rice:
-Heat up cooking oil and fry half of the garlic and shallots. Scoop out and set aside.
-Next, put the brown rice in and stir well. Add a bit of water, then sprinkle salt and sweet soy sauce. Place peanuts and red bean, stir fry and mix them thoroughly.
-Move everything into the steamer, add 3 cups of water, and steam the rice until half cooked.
-Add in the sautéed garlic and shallots. Mix thoroughly then continue steaming until 3/4 cooked.
On a separate wok, heat up the cooking oil. Add the other half of the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the meat and mushroom in, then stir fry until the meat is cooked.
Now comes the wrapping phase.
Take two bamboo leaves, overlap them slightly and fold them into a cone.
Insert rice into the bottom part of the funnel, and press to compact the rice. Next, add the meat and mushroom on top of the layer of rice. How much rice and filling to add is entirely up to you. If you would like more ingredients in your bazhang, you can add some dried scallops, dried chestnuts, lotus seeds or walnuts. After the layer of filling, cover it with a final layer of rice. Now compress the bazhang to shape it, and fold the leaves over to form a pyramid. Make sure all the corners are enclosed, then tie the strings to secure it. Now repeat this until you run out of ingredients.
Finally, steam the bazhang for about an hour, and they’ll be ready for consumption!