The day after we touched down, we went to my parents’ place for a visit and guess what Mum had in store for us…….Ba Zhang!
Also known as 粽 子 in the Chinese language, these are steamed dumplings made of glutinous rice stuffed with different types of filling. Mum makes it with braised pork belly, dried oysters, salted egg yolks, hei bi (虾米), chestnut etc, the way I love a good ba zhang and it doesn’t help that Mum makes one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
These are traditionally made during the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节）which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar year. There are a few legends as to how this tradition began, but one tells the story of Qu Yuan, a wise and learned Chinese scholar. He was opposed by many court officials during the Warring States Period, and one day he drowned himself in the Miluo River. The local people attempted to rescue him by getting on boats to search for him; the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the rescue efforts. Although the local people failed to rescue Qu Yuan, they made rice dumplings and threw them into the river to feed creatures, in the hope that they would not feed on Qu Yuan’s body. These rice dumplings evolved to what we call ba zhang today, a traditional Chinese food that is still enjoyed by many in modern times.
I do hope very much that one day I will be able to make ba zhang for my children. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to help Mum with the wrapping of the dumplings in bamboo leaves, but this proved too difficult for me, I always end up making ugly parcels instead of triangular ones. I must pick this up one day!
P/S: Guess what, my mother-in-law made some for us too! I was so delighted because we haven’t had these in years and I know a massive amount of effort goes into making them…ba zhang is indeed a symbol of love from our mummies. =)