Monday, June 1, 2009

Zhong Zhi (Bak Zhang) Part 1

This is the traditional food prepared for the fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar, and also celebrated by dragon boat races. As a bit of history and legend (there are many versions of the story but they all share many similarities), there was a minister called Qu Yuan (475 - 221 BC) who was much loved by the citizens. During the warring Zhou Dynasty, the Emperer of Chu of whom Qu Yuan was serving, was advised by Qu Yuan to resist going into conflict with the Qin Kingdom. The advise was rejected by other officials who, along with the Emperor's son, framed Qu Yuan and caused him to go into exile. In his despair, he drowned himself in the Milou River. To remember him, the common people used long dragon boats and beating war drums to scare the fish from eating his body. Rice wrapped in bamboo leaves are for his spirit and to avoid fishes from eating it as well. However, another version of the story is that the rice is thrown into the river so that the braver fishes will eat the rice rather than his body.

Makes 65.

Bak Zhang (Meat Filled Dumplings)
150gm Dried Shrimps (soaked and washed)
2 big onions (diced)
1/4 cup vegetable oil.
1kg Pork Belly Meat (diced)
100gm Shiitake Mushrooms (soaked)
750gm Dried Chestnuts (cleaned and husked) (replace with salted peanuts if desired)
Five Spiced Powder (aka mixed spices)
1 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce
4 tablespoons Dark Soya Sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon Plain Flour
250gm Mung Beans (rinsed)
bamboo leaves (I used about 100) and raffa strings (or nylon strings if you don't have any raffa strings)

  1. Fry the dried shrimps with about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and set aside overnight.
  2. Heat the remaining oil and fry the onions until the oil is fragrant. Leave aside overnight.
  3. Place the chestnuts in a pot and cover with water to just about 1cm above the chestnuts. Allow the chestnuts to simmer in the pot until it is soft and water is just about dry. You may need to place more water if there is completely no more water in the pot and the chestnuts are still not dried. You may also wish to put in a few blades of pandan leaves into the pot. Set aside overnight.
  4. Slice mushrooms and fry with one tablespoon of the onion-vegetable oil from step two above, along with 1 tbsp dark soya sauce, 1 tbsp light soya sauce, 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce, pinch of salt and pinch of five spiced powder. Add in 1/2 tbsp flour to thicken up any sauces. Set aside overnight.
  5. Marinate the pork belly with the remaining seasonings and spices. Set aside in the refridgerator overnight.

Rice and Wrapping Dumplings

2kg Glutinous Rice (soaked overnight)
3 tbsp dark soya sauce
1 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp five-spiced powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp onion/oil mixture from previous night's preparation

  1. Drain the soaked-overnight-glutinous rice and season the glutinous rice with all of the ingredients above.
  2. Wash and drain the mung beans.
  3. Bring out all the previous night's preparation of the fillings (marinated pork belly, mushrooms, dried shrimp, chestnuts)
  4. Begin the wrapping process.
  5. Place in pressure cooker for 1hr, remove from pot and hang up to drip dry.

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