Sunday, May 7, 2023

"Bak Chang" (Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Meat)

When I think of the word "multicultural", the first thing that comes to my mind is food (actually I think of food most of the time anyway, which is why I decided to have a blog to pen down all my foodie-related thoughts). In Malaysia, we are fortunate to be able to celebrate a myriad of religious and cultural festivities, and of course with every celebration, there is always food. There are two things I look forward to each year (and which I try not to miss!) which are the Mooncake festival and Dumpling festival ("Duan Wu Jie") or also known as Dragon Boat Festival. The latter was just over on 20 June, and better late then never, I decided to have a go at making these glutinous rice dumplings. Nobody makes better dumplings than my aunt (hers is simply the best!) and I haven't had them since I moved to Australia years ago. 

You can find dumplings being sold at most Asian supermarkets in Sydney, although most of them just don't make the cut. The perfect dumpling needs to have the right balance of flavour and spices and the texture of the rice is so important - not too dry, dense nor sticky. The filling (which is usually pork, dried shrimp, chestnut and mushrooms) needs to be adequately seasoned so that it complements the delicate taste of the rice. 

When I told mum that I was going to make dumplings, she thought I was nuts! Okay, not really, but she thought why bother making them as it is quite a laborious task preparing the ingredients, wrapping the dumplings and boiling them for hours. I was a little skeptical at first, and made sure I planned out my tasks properly and went over the steps in my head. I even watched Youtube tutorials on dumpling wrapping multiple times. It looked easier on video than when it came to wrapping them, but after a few, I got the hang of it. Once I mastered the art of wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves and securing them with string, the entire process wasn't as difficult as I thought, It took about two hours to prepare the ingredients and wrap the dumplings.

The hardest part was actually peeling the chestnuts! I bought fresh chestnuts with shell and all, and took advice from friends and youtube on how to crack them open and peel away the inner skin. I think I might need more practice in that area, or better still, I should just buy dried shelled chestnuts next time! Right now, what I need is a back massage, and some dumplings for supper!

Bak Chang
Makes 20-24


1 kg glutinous rice
50 dried bamboo leaves
Dried china grass or raffia string for tying the chang

500g pork belly, cut into 1 inch cubes

Pork marinade:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (Cheong Chan thick caramel)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Chestnuts (12 large or 24 small ones), peeled and boiled until soft
12 large dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes, squeezed dry and halved
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup dried shrimp, soaked and drained
250g shallots, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped

Rice seasoning:
4 clove garlic, chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (Cheong Chan thick caramel)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp five spice powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


Wash and soak the rice overnight (about 12 hours). Drain rice the next day.
Wash and soak the bamboo leaves overnight. Drain before use.

Season pork with the marinade overnight.

Season the mushrooms with 1 tsp sugar. 

Heat 1/2 cup oil and fry the mushrooms for 1 minute. Drain and set aside. Fry the dried shrimp for 2 minutes, then drain and set aside. With the remaining oil in the pan, fry the shallots, stirring frequently until it starts to turn lightly golden. Add more oil if there isn't enough to fry the shallots. Dish out the shallots together with the oil into a bowl. 

Heat 1 tbsp oil in the wok and fry the  5 cloves of the chopped garlic. Add the seasoned pork and one-third of the shallot/oil mixture above and stir fry for 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Transfer the pork into a bowl. There will be some extra sauce in the wok. Transfer this sauce to the drained rice which we will fry later.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in the wok and fry the 4 cloves of chopped garlic until golden. Add the rice, the reserved shallot/oil mixture and the rest of the seasoning ingredients. Mix until evenly combined. Fry for 6-8 minutes until fragrant. Dish out.

Wrapping the chang:

Take two bamboo leaves (discard those with holes) with the shiny side up with the tip of the leaves facing inwards. Snip off the hard stems at the base of the leaves so that it's easier to fold it later. Shape it into a cone and place 1-2 tbsp of rice into the cone. Add a piece of mushroom, chestnut, pork and 1 tsp of dried shrimp. Fill with more rice until it reaches the top of the cone Make sure it's nice and compact before wrapping it into a triangular prism shape. Tie with string.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and add 1-2 tbsp salt if desired. Place the chang into the pot and ensure it's fully submerged. Boil for 2.5 hours, topping up with boiling water if the level goes down. When cooked, remove and hang the chang to dry for about 20 minutes. Enjoy on its own or serve with chilli sauce.

Note: Leftover dumplings can be kept frozen. Thaw the dumplings in the fridge and reheat in a steamer.