Bak Chang Season: Yummy Dumplings To Lift Your Spirits
The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of famed Chinese scholar Qu Yuan who lived in the Chu kingdom of third century BCE. The story goes that he was essentially too smart for his own good, so court officials framed him for conspiracy which led to his exile.
While in exile, Qu Yan drowned his anger in writing poems and eventually himself in the Miluo River by attaching a stone to his chest. The people of Chu, who never doubted him, quickly launched a rescue mission, jumping into boats to search for him. He was, however, never to be found.
The following year, the local people threw cooked rice into the river in the hopes that the tasty morsels would distract the fish from nibbling at Quan Yu’s body. The year after that, they began the tradition of wrapping rice in bamboo leaves to mark the occasion.
These days, in Singapore, miles and miles away from where Quan Yu met his end, the Dragon Boat Festival continues to bring with it rice dumplings of every ilk. Each year, the renditions get ever more creative — truffles, yam paste, morel mushrooms, fruit jelly, they all make their way into annual menus purveyed by dumpling makers across the island.
Here are a few that’ll sate many different tastes.
8 Divine Dumplings from Resorts World Sentosa
Purchasing dumplings for a crowd can be daunting… except when your dumpling haul comes in a set of eight. Resorts World Sentosa has done just that with a luxurious eight-piece Dumpling Feast ($118) featuring one from each chef across its stable of restaurants.
There’s a Hakka-style number made with eight premium ingredients like a braised whole 10-head abalone, Hokkaido dried scallops and five-spice pork belly by Fengshui Inn’s executive chef Li Kwok Kwong. There’s also a seafood one featuring responsibly harvested sea whelk from France by executive sous chef Goh Wee Meng.
Chef de cuisine Surangkana “Aae” Sub-Anan has made a Siamese Jade Dumpling with glutinous rice, fresh coconut milk, palm sugar and creamy taro, while Syun’s chef Noriyoshi Teruya has created a Japanese-inspired dumpling filled with Japanese rice, sea bream and red miso Tajima wagyu.
Jade Originals Rice Dumplings
There is something particularly wholesome about the dumplings dreamed up by Chinese executive chef Leong Chee Yeng from Jade at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore this year. The Ginseng Chicken Glutinous Rice Dumpling ($18) is giving us nourishing double-boiled soup vibes thanks to warming ingredients like black mushrooms, tender morsels of marinated chicken thigh and Chinese ham.
There’s also a bak kut teh-flavoured variant ($12) with herbal, peppery notes and chef Leong’s special blend of herbs and spices.
The health-conscious might like the Organic Millet Five-Grain Omnimeat dumpling ($12) packed with a blend of five spice-scented glutinous rice, organic millet oats, barley and brown rice. Squirreled inside all that is an assortment of mushrooms, lotus seeds and Omnimeat made from plant-based proteins.
Crystal Jade’s Grandma’s Braised Pork Belly with Purple Glutinous Rice Dumpling
Group executive chef Martin Foo’s signature Grandma’s Braised Pork Belly gets its turn as a purple rice-speckled dumpling this year. The meltingly tender morsels of pork belly are simmered with high-quality soy sauce, rock sugar and spices to a rich, sticky consistency along with succulent shitake mushrooms and creamy chestnuts.
These heart-warming parcels sell for $9.80 a pop and could be chased with a Petite Mango Sago Fruity Crystal Jelly Dumpling ($7.80 for three) that’s really a pyramid-shaped konnyaku jelly studded with chunks of fresh mango, pops of pomelo sacs and crunchy basil seeds.
Summer Palace’s Roast Duck, Abalone and Black Mushrooms Rice Dumplings
All the classics from this Michelin-starred stalwart are back this year, including the more-ish abalone with black mushrooms, chestnuts, green beans, dried scallops, roast duck and salted egg yolk rice dumpling ($42). This is a dumpling to be shared since it is large and pretty much a meal in itself.
For something lighter though no less luxe, order the steamed morel mushroom and truffle rice dumpling with five treasure that include lotus seeds, oats, barley, sweet corn and green beans ($26).
Classic Taiwanese Dumpling With Sesame Oil Chicken from Hai Tien Lo
Those who prefer to eschew pork in their dumplings can opt for this ambrosial treat inspired by the Taiwanese speciality. Snuggled within the cooked-till-luscious grains of rice are chicken leg stewed with fungus, Chinese rice wine and sesame oil. If yours is more of a sweet tooth, go for the Teochew dumpling with yam paste and gingko nuts ($10.80) inspired by orh nee, of course.