When I was young, I will always look forward to the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar where Chinese around the world celebrates Duan Wu festival which is also known as Dragon Boat festival in China because I will get eat the rice dumplings or “bak chang” in Hokkien made by my maternal grandmother with the help of my mother and aunties. Those days, you can only eat them once a year whereas these days, we can easily buy them at coffee shops throughout the year.
It was a thrill to see my grandmother hoping from one sundry shop to another to buy the ingredients that was needed to prepare the dumplings a few days before the Duan Wu festival because I will usually get to follow her. Having prepared all the ingredients needed, on the eve of the festival, the ladies in the house will gather around the dining table to wrap the ingredients with dried lotus leaf in triangle shape and then tied each of them together like a bunch of grapes.
Usually, my grandmother will make a special one for me with extra ingredients in it such as more meat, double salted eggs yoke and others. It is not hard to differentiate it later because that particular one will be much bigger than the rest. I miss it very much.
As of why the shape of the dumplings have to be in triangle, I still can’t find the answer but in China, I do not remember seeing them in triangle as in Malaysia but in various shapes like square and round. It needs some kind of skills to wrap them into triangle shape and only my grandmother can make it. My aunties and my mom are hopeless in it.
When my grandmother passed away in 2001, the family never makes rice dumplings anymore because nobody knows how to wrap the ingredients with dried lotus leafs into triangle shape. Once a while when we crave for the dumplings that grandma made, my aunty will joke that she can prepare the ingredients but instead of wrapping them, it will be served like “lo mai kai”, a kind of dim sum that is quite similar to the rice dumplings except that it is not wrapped before being steamed to our great laugh.
To this day, I can never find any rice dumplings that are as nice as those made by my maternal grandmother. If you do find any place that sell nice rice dumplings, please let me know as I have a great cravings for them.