Dragon Boat Festival 2021
Even in a pandemic, some things don’t change, and that includes the Bak Zhang Festival! Albeit with smaller gatherings, we’re certain that many of you will be busy at home making your own bak zhangs. If you’re looking to improve your recipe from last year, or explore new recipes and bak zhang styles, we’ve got 5 delicious bak zhang recipes to share.
P.S. Since we’re all cooped up indoors for Phase 2: Heightened Alert, it’s a great chance for those who never bothered before to get involved. Read on to learn more about the story of Bak Zhang festival and why it’s still so celebrated today.
The Story of Bak Zhang Festival
Even if your ahma never told you the story, we’re sure that you’ve seen this at least once in your history books. Here’s a quick refresher (or, skip to the recipes here):
Many years ago, legend has it that there was a Chinese minister named Qu Yuan. He was a pretty good minister to the King of the state of Chu. But because other officials were jealous of him, they slandered him (no POFMA back then) and accused him of treason. Qu Yuan was then exiled.
In the following wars, the State of Chu didn’t do very well and the capital was captured. Upon hearing the news, Qu Yuan was devastated and drowned himself in the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, which is now what’s known as the Dragonboat festival, or Bak Zhang festival.
Why the dragon boats and the Bak Zhangs? Well, when the locals heard of Qu Yuan’s death, they rowed out on the river to search for his body, but couldn’t find him. To preserve his body, they paddled their boats (Read: Dragon Boats) up and down the river, hitting the water with their paddles and beating drums to scare any evil spirits away. They also threw lumps of rice (Read: Bak Zhangs) into the river to feed the fish so that they would not touch Qu Yuan’s body.
Bak Zhang Recipes
Obviously, we don’t actually go out in our kayaks and throw rice overboard today, but it’s still a great occasion to gather as a family to make (and eat!) delicious Bak Zhangs. Also known as zong zi or simply glutinous rice dumplings, here are 5 different recipes to try:
1. Cantonese Bak Zhang / ZongZi
Simply put, this Cantonese Bak Chang is savoury goodness. Our version features eight different types of ingredients for its filling, including luscious chunks of pork belly marinated with eight condiments, and of course mung beans – the traditional must-have ingredient for the Cantonese Bak Chang.
Together with the fried dried shrimp, mushrooms, chestnuts, dried scallops, dried oysters and the classic salted egg yolk, every mouthful of this Bak Chang is sure to give you the burst of flavour that will have your family’s stamp of approval.
Preparation Time: 5 hours. Serves 12.
2. Nyonya Bak Zhang / ZongZi
Appearance-wise, the Nyonya Bak Chang is best characterised by a blue tinge in the rice that comes from the blue pea flower — a traditional Peranakan touch. In terms of flavour, it’s distinctly fragrant and slightly sweet.
Apart from the usual candied wintermelon and steamed mushrooms, this recipe includes lean pork shoulder meat instead of the fatty pork in traditional rice dumplings, as well as cekur root, or sand ginger, that gives the meat a more intense flavour.
Preparation Time: 4 hours. Serves 12.
3. Hokkien Bak Zhang / ZongZi
If you’ve ever bought a Bak Zhang from a stall, chances are that it’s the Hokkien Bak Zhang, the most commonly available version all year round. This recipe includes all the classic elements — pork belly, salted egg yolk, chestnuts and dried shrimps — as well as additional dried oysters, to provide that added layer of flavor and depth.
Note that wrapping the bamboo leaves takes a bit of skill and practice to achieve the perfect shape. But don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time round, you can always ask your ahma for help, or watch our video tutorial here.
Preparation Time: 3 hours 30 minutes. Serves 25.
4. Kee Chang Bak Zhang / ZongZi
Kee Chang, or alkaline rice dumplings, are made using yellow glutinous rice. Often eaten as a dessert, you can make them plain or give them an extra touch of sweetness with some red bean paste.
On top of traditional instructions, the recipe also includes steps for a pandan-infused gula melaka sauce to go with these dainty dumplings. Follow that to make a wonderful pairing sauce, or go with a simple sugar or coconut kaya dip to make this the perfect sweet treat.
Preparation Time: 3 hours. Serves 24.
5. Seafood Bak Zhang / ZongZi
This exciting take on Bak Zhang is for seafood lovers! While not from any specific dialect group, the Seafood Bak Zhang recipe features a mouth-watering filling including baby abalone, crab, scallops, hei bi (dried shrimp) and salted egg.
On top of that, you can expect dumplings that are generously flavoured with XO sauce and oyster sauce for an aromatic fragrance that’ll keep you wanting seconds!
The video tutorial and full recipe drops on Thursday, 10 June 2021, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell button to be notified the moment it’s released. Be one of the first to try our handmade seafood bak zhang recipe, and share your thoughts in our FB cooking community!
Bak Zhang Recipes
Just from this list alone, you can see that there are so many different kinds of Bak Zhangs, even here on our tiny island. Whether you prefer the large, savoury Hokkien Bak Zhangs, or the delicate and sweet Kee Changs, the spirit of the occasion is the same — it’s about togetherness and enjoying the company of loved ones. Perhaps that’s something we all need a little more of this year.
If you’re looking for a cooking community, join our FB cooking community here! You can share your bak zhang making process, send photos of your yummy creations, and get inspired by others too. We’re waiting to welcome you!
Find the playlist to all the featured recipes in this article here
Some other easy recipes you might like:
P.S. We’ve got recipes for all your Singaporean and Asian favourites on our Youtube channel. Subscribe and share with your friends!
P.P.S. Can’t find a recipe you like? Drop us a comment or ping us on our socials.
Get cooking with us: