Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Rice Dumpling Festival (Duan Wu Jie)

It is the time of the year for yet another festive celebration in one of the world’s most culturally diverse country, Malaysia. Yesterday, we celebrated the Rice Dumpling Festival or more fondly known by the Chinese community as ‘Duan Wu Jie’.

Due to my curious nature, I googled up the story behind this memorable event which up to date, is still being strongly upheld by the Chinese community around the globe. I summarized my discovery together with some pictures of the delectable rice dumplings which is now being treated by the digestive enzymes from my stomach for your leisure reading.
Duan Wu Jie is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Lunar calendar annually. In addition to the vast selection of mouth watering rice-dumplings available for savoring, the dragon boat race is also held concurrently on the same date. Many versions have been told with respect to the legend behind this honorable celebration. The most widespread adaptation tells about the patriotic poet Qu Yuan who is also a high-post minister of the Chu Dynasty in ancient China. Qu Yuan is highly respected both for his loyalty towards the emperor as well as his devotion to his country. However, due to an unfolding political conspiracy among the palace officials, the weak-minded emperor Huai was tricked into banishing Qu Yuan.

This left him helpless as he witness the progressive occupation of his motherland by the Qin dynasty. Devastated by the events that unfolded, Qu Yuan decided to take his own life by plunging himself into the Mi-Luo river in Hunan province of China on the fifth day of the fifth month in 278 B.C. The news reached the ears of the citizens. Overwhelmed, they made rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw them into the river in hope that the fishes will favor the dumplings over Qu Yuan’s body. A group of fishermen then conducted a search for their beloved minister’s corpse in boats, beating gongs and drums along the way in a desperate attempt to scare the fishes away. This eventually marked the commencement of the dragon boat races. Since then, the fifth day of the fifth lunar month has been dedicated in remembrance of the deeply cherished minister and poet, Qu Yuan.

Hope the chronicle above managed to shed some light about the origin of dumpling festivals. Having said enough about the origin of Duan Wu Jie, we will now divert our attention to the lip smacking rice dumpling, or Zongzi as it is famously called. Zongzi is made from glutinous rice stuffed with an assortment of fillings wrapped in bamboo (or lotus) leaves. The most common type of filling-based Zongzi is the ‘rou Zongzi’ (pork/chicken meat Zongzi). The few main ingredients in rou Zongzi are pork/chicken, chestnut, egg, salted egg and dried mushroom. Rou Zongzi can appear white (the glutinous rice is not pre-fried) or brown (glutinous rice pre-fried with soya-sauce).

The infamous pork Zongzi

There is one exceptional type of Zongzi that contains no fillings, called the ‘Jian Shui Zong’. Jian Shui Zong possesses characteristic yellow appearance which resulted from treatment of the glutinous rice with lye water (aqueous calcium hydroxide). Jian Shui Zongs are usually eaten with sugar or syrup to perk up the palatability. Nowadays, modified Jian Shui Zhongs filled with red beans are widely available as an alternative option for picky consumers.
The yellow Jian Shui Zhong

Enclosed below are pictures of me and my first Zongzi of the year which serves as my supper yesterday

My supper ~ pork Zongzi

Me with my supper ~ Yum Yum

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