Malaysian Monday 39: Chang (Rice Dumpling in Bamboo Leaves)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hi everyone, I know I’d promised posts about the recent Malaysia trip, but last Tuesday I received a text message from Mum reminding me that Wednesday was the Dragon Boat Festival - time for eating rice dumplings. She’d actually given me a dumpling recipe book on our trip over, so I figured it was a good time to test one of the recipes out.

Of course, I didn’t get my act together to actually make dumplings in time for the festival, but I didn’t think it mattered too much.

At first I was a little sceptical about the recipe as it seemed quite simple. A friend had made some dumplings for us one year, and when I asked for the recipe, I received a lovingly detailed, hand drawn guide to dumpling making. I tucked it away in a safe place (so safe I can’t find it again), but if memory serves correctly it involved slow cooking the meat filling the day before. The book recipe just recommended cooking the meat for ten minutes.

Luckily, my scepticism was unfounded and I found myself tucking into some pretty authentic tasting chang (rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves). I think the slow cooking method would probably produce a richer dumpling, but when a shortcut works, I’m keeping it.

The actual recipe isn’t too tricky but the process is a bit fiddly and involves overnight soaking time, as well as at least an hour boiling time. But it’s worth making a big batch because chang keeps well in the fridge, and can even be frozen. To eat, simply reheat either by steaming or giving it a quick zap in the microwave (my preferred method as it only took about 40 seconds). (Of course, do remember to defrost chang first if frozen).

I ate a few for breakfast, lunch and supper (not all on the same day!). Both the MC’s unfortunately didn’t take to the dumplings, which I found quite surprising. What I found even more surprising was that Mr. Kitchen Hand enjoyed them and ate a couple for lunch! So I guess I’ll be making more of these again soon.

Have a great start to the week.

Meat and mushroom rice dumpling
halved and adapted from a recipe in Rice Dumplings (compiled by Wong Kee Sum/One Publisher)

For wrapping dumplings:
Bamboo leaves – place as many bamboo leaves as needed (you’ll need 2 per dumpling) into a large heatproof bowl. Pour over enough boiling water until the leaves are well covered. Soak until needed – it’s alright for the water to cool down with the leaves left in. Leaves should be soft and pliable. Packets of bamboo leaves can be found at asian supermarkets.
Kitchen string for tying the dumplings (or hemp string if you can find it)

For the rice:
500g glutinous rice – soaked overnight (I poured in enough cold water to cover the rice by about an inch). The next day, drain well before proceeding with the recipe
Rice seasoning –
dash of dark soy sauce (about 1 tbsp),
 pinch of pepper and salt (if needed)
 pinch of five spice powder. (I didn’t have any five spice powder so I used a cinnamon stick and one star anise to flavour)
the recipe also calls for chicken stock granules but since I don’t keep this at home, I added a dash of oyster sauce instead.
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying the rice.

Prepare the rice: Heat the oil in a wok, then add the rice and seasonings, stir well to coat then remove and set aside to cool. If using the cinammon stick and star anise, add them into the oil first until they release their fragrance, then add in the rice and other seasonings. Remove the spices before using the rice.

For the meat and mushroom filling:
8 shitake mushrooms – soaked for at least 4 hours or more, then halved or quartered. Use more mushrooms if desired. Marinate the softened mushrooms with a little bit of oyster sauce (to taste)
Belly pork – the recipe uses 500g of this meat. I used two pieces of a cut called spare ribs, with the rind removed. Slice the pork into small pieces, about 2-3 cm wide. (The pork needs to be a cut that contains a little bit of fat otherwise the end result will be too dry)
Handful of chestnuts – the recipe uses dried chestnuts that have been soaked overnight. I used about 10 fresh, peeled chestnuts. My favourite way to peel chestnuts is described here.
1 tablespoon dried shrimp, soaked for about 10 minutes, drained and chopped finely.

Seasoning for the filling :
Half an onion – finely diced
2 garlic cloves – finely diced
pinch of five spice powder (or the cinnamon stick and star anise as above if five spice powder is unavailable. You could also add some ground cloves and fennel)
pinch of pepper and salt to taste
dash of dark soy sauce (about 1 tablespoon or to taste)
tiny pinch of sugar
about 1 – 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Heat a wok on medium high heat and add the oil. Fry the onion and garlic until it smells good, then ad  in the dried prawns. Stir-fry it for about half a minute, then add the belly pork. Stir- fry for a minute or two, then add the seasonings. Lower heat slightly if necessary. Keep stirring so the meat doesn’t stick. Cook for about 10 minutes or so until the meat is just cooked. Set aside.

To assemble the dumplings:
Take two bamboo leaves and place them overlapping each other. Fold in the middle until it becomes a cone. Place a little rice in the bottom of this cone, pack it down firmly, then add a piece of meat, a mushroom piece and a chestnut on this rice. Top up with more rice and pack down again.

Fold the bamboo leaves over the rice , overlapping aas you go to get a triangular shape. Tie firmly – as you can see, the tying part eludes me a little.

Leave a length of string after the final knot.

Gather a few dumpling parcels together and tie them together.

To boil, heat up a large pot of water until it comes to a rolling boil. Position a wooden spoon across the top of the pot. Hang the dumpling parcels over the handle of the wooden spoon so that they don’t sit right on the bottom of the pot.

Keep the water boiling at quite a rapid simmer and cook until the dumplings are done. Depending on the size of the dumplings, this can take between one and two hours. Open a dumpling to check if cooked.

I made about 15 medium sized dumplings.


3 hungry tummies said...

Hey Shaz your chang looks fantastic! I didn't even eat any shop bought ones :(
At home we only fry the pork belly briefly with 5 spice powder, oyster sauce and soy briefly as well. I bought some pork belly from Coles the other day but the label says pork spareribs?

shaz said...

Hi tummies, yes the spare ribs I bought from the butcher looks like thin slices of pork belly. The butcher sells the pork belly in big hunks. I'm not really well-versed with the various cuts though. It kind of looked right so I got it :)

Hungry Dog said...

I love these...your version looks great. I had to laugh about the safe place many things have I socked away in safe places only to lose for years? ;)

Juliana said...

Oh! I love this kind of rice, love the flavor of the leaves in the mom makes them often, but I never tried to make them...yours look absolutely gorgeous!

dessert girl said...

I love the picture of the hanging leaves! It almost looks like bats!

grace said...

ah, i do love a handy shortcut. this is a really unique and nifty technique, shaz--thanks!

Von said...

This looks delicious! I love making chang- it's so fun! We usually make heaps and then freeze them- they practically last forever in the freezer =] I should try seasoning the rice next time- your rice looks so yummy!

shaz said...

Hungry Dog - I wish I could find that recipe, the illustrations alone were worth it!

Juliana - thank you, although my mum reckons the dumplings should actually have 4 points instead of 3. Oops.

dessert girl - they do look a bit critter like don't they?

grace - no problemo!

Von - definitely worth the seasoning. I thought I'd have leftovers to freeze but we ate them all up!