Rice Dumpling Festival

Above is ‘kee chang’ – made from lye water and glutinous rice, eaten with gula malacca syrup. My all time favourite

Or otherwise known as ‘chang’ festival. In Singapore somehow, one does not realise the passing of many traditional chinese festivals despite the fact that Singapore’s population is predominantly Chinese (although of various ethnic groups). I supposed I would have to head to Tiong Bahru or Chinatown (I always feel weird to speak of Chinatown as an area in Singapore when we are surrounded by chinese anyway). Maybe I am living in the wrong neighbourhood.

Chang festival, falls on the 5th day of the 5th month every year – which is also the chinese summer solstice. In China, Taiwan and Hong Kong,it is a public holiday.

Duan Wu Jie is a widely celebrated festival amongst the Chinese, to pay respect to the patriotic poet, Qu Yuan (pronounced as Chue Yuan). The legend involves a really long and complicated throne-fighting war and political history. But to make a long story short: Qu Yuan was an important minister back in Chu Kingdom in ancient China. He had been known for his loyalty for the emperor of Chu, and loved his country greatly. However, His Majesty had not taken Qu Yuan’s advice seriously, and he eventually got himself trapped and captured in a foreign land by his enemies, which then lead to his own death.

Sad and angry at the corrupted, dying Kingdom, Qu Yuan tied himself to a big rock and threw himself into the River of Puo Luo. The people then made rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw them into the river. They believed this would stop the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body. Some would even row down stream in a boat, beating drums and shouting out loud in the hope to scare the fish away (it was believed that it is how the Dragon Boat event is related to the festival.

Since then, the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese calendar has been set as Duan Wu Festival to remember the incident. Although there were versions of legends and stories that indicate Duan Wu has existed way before Qu Yuan’s death, the tradition still carries on.

from http://www.knowingfood.com/rice/rice_dumpling_festival.html

I know, why must all chinese festivals involve food? Because us Chinese love food too much – that is why!

A stall selling ‘chang’

The chang comes in many different flavours, like bak chang – hokkien style, has tau eu pork (pork cooked in soya sauce), mushroom, chestnut and salted egg yolk, encased in glutinous rice seasoned with black tau ee, wrapped in lotus leaves or bamboo leaves. Others are the nyonya style (called pua kiam tee meaning sweet  & salty), made from peanuts, candied winter melon, shredded pork, shallots, etc – another would be the cantonese tau chang, with mung bean filling and pork. One of my favourites. Some are filled with red bean paste or black eye peas.

Tomorrow marks the day of the festival, 16th June 2010 – and I will be off to hunt for some dumplings in Singapore. If anyone knows of a good place to get them, please let me know!

ps- I was told Hoo Kee Rice Dumplings at Amoy Street (7 Maxwell Road #01-18 Amoy Street Food Centre)  is very popular, sold out daily by 1pm. Other places to check out would be the major hotels, most of their chinese restaurants would make dumplings of their own concoction to celebrate the festival.

I found out from my friend Pei Fern, there is apparently an activity – egg standing game, popular amongst young people and children. The peak time to do it is 12noon, on this chinese summer solstice day. Only once in a year you can try to defy gravity.

NB – She tried it and well it worked! See photo above from her FB.


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