During special Chinese occasions, it’s customary for us to celebrate by eating certain traditional food. mooncakes are eaten on Mid-Autumn Festival. Similarly, rice dumplings are eaten on the Dragon Boat Festival. This festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, hence it’s also known as double fifth.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Chinese culture, a rice dumpling is glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or pandan leaves, whose faint fragrance permeates into the rice. Sometimes, blue colouring derived from blue pea flower is added to give the rice a sweetened tang. It certainly ramps up the uniqueness of this traditional snack!
This being the Dragon Boat Festival, let’s celebrate with this showcase of 6 unique rice dumplings from around the world (in addition to eating our favourite Nonya rice dumplings, of course).
Typically, ingredients such as egg yolks, minced meat, mushrooms and chestnuts are added to the rice to bring in more dimensions of taste and make this a more wholesome snack. This is the commonest kind of rice dumpling. With that in mind, check out the following 6 different renditions of the rice dumpling.
Green Tea Rice Dumpling
A dim sum restaurant in vancouver concocted these green tea rice dumplings. They are about as different from conventional rice dumplings as they can get. Each dumpling is fried, and has a thick covering of green tea-flavoured mochi (a Japanese term for cooked glutinous rice that’s been pounded into paste) with a filling of sesame paste. Pretty unique huh? Sounds like a sinfully sweet combination to me!
The Japanese have their own rice dumplings too! They call it chimaki and it’s eaten on kodomo no hi which is the children’s day in Japan. The shapes of these dumplings somewhat resemble fish, don’t you think?
Interestingly, kodomo no hi is also celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month, but on the gregorian calendar in this case.
Mini Rice Dumpling
Bite-sized rice dumplings! You know it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with these! Rather than eating a dumpling one bite at a time, why not have the whole of it all at once? These mini rice dumplings sure are fun to eat! Just dip each one into the dark sauce and you’ll have yourself a yummy little snack. Mmm…
Sushi Rice Dumpling
Yet another take on bite-sized rice dumplings comes in the form of sushi. Okay, so this may not exactly be rice dumplings per se. But all the ingredients are there. Glutinous rice, check. Mushroom, check. Meat, check. It’s all good.
Red Bean Rice Dumpling & Plushie
Rice dumplings with red bean filling. Now, I’m not sure if this is a typical ingredient of rice dumpling but it sure is different from the regular meat-and-mushroom combinations. Red bean lovers would definitely take a liking to this! Plus, the bright pink strings used to tie the dumplings are way too sweet and pretty!
For those who love their snacks but are conscious of the calorie count, there’s always the adorable dumpling plushie. So he ain’t quite the same, but he’s cute and cheeky!
The Story Behind
Flash credit: Kim Choo
If you are curious as to how the rice dumpling came about, here’s a quick history lesson. It all started with Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan (340-278 B.C.) was a beloved poet and minister that served the Zhou dynasty in ancient China. Despite his efforts to rid the government of corruption, he was wrongfully banished by the king. When the state’s capital fell to the Qin, he drowned himself out of despair in a river on the fifth day of the fifth month.
The local people who were devoted to him could not find his body. They dropped rice dumplings into the river to feed the fishes so that they would leave his body intact, and even paddled out on boats to scare the fishes away! Hence today, eating rice dumplings and dragon boat racing are done as a tribute to him.
There you go! Do you have any unique rice dumpling or story to share? Have a happy Duan Wu festival!