Sisters are doing it for themselves…

A long time ago, during my childhood days, the Chinese or more specifically the Foochows in Sibu were noted for their bland food. The emphasis was on quantity, not quality.

Around that same time too, anything spicy in their food was quite unheard of and their curry (chicken) was very diluted – with the pieces of chicken cooked with a little bit of curry powder and swimming in a pool of santan (coconut milk). If you would like to eat that kind of chicken curry, I know one place in town that still cooks it this way. Believe you me, I do go for it once in a while and it certainly feels like old times.

But times have changed and the Chinese/Foochows in Sibu have progressed to curry that is a lot spicier and in fact, there are some places serving very good curry like this one, for instance, where the fish head curry can rival any cooked by the Malays or the others in their cafes and restaurants…and there are many Chinese-owned nasi lemak stalls in town too.

On the other hand, you can go to many Malay stalls around here and they do sell kampua noodles and kolo meeΒ too but the halal (does not contain pork or any pork related products) version, of course but what earns them my utmost respect would be the ability to tie these meat dumplings or what the Chinese call bak zhang

Halal bak zhang 1

They call them ketupat but I guess when somebody mentions ketupat, this would be the last thing on our minds.

It is really very sad, tragic in fact, that many among the Chinese themselves do not know how to tie these dumplings as I would consider this a part of their culture, their tradition, their heritage…and yet, our fellow-countrymen/ladies can do it so well. I have purposely put the dumpling on a spoon to give everyone an idea of how delicately small that is.

Each of them costs RM1.00 only. The Chinese-made ones sold at some places in the town are RM2.00-2.50 each but they are a bit bigger, maybe almost twice the size and theirs are of a darker shade of brown than this…

Halal bak zhang 2

…as in the making, the glutinous rice would have been fried first, with soy sauce and five spice powder added.

But the nyonya zhangs that my mum and the rest in the family used to make were also pale/white like this…

Halal bak zhang 3

…and we do like it this way.

Inside that little dumpling are little bits of meat…

Halal bak zhang 4

…and though it is not cooked to taste the same as the Chinese ones, I must say that it tastes very good. In fact if they had added a bit of ketumbarΒ (coriander), it would taste like the nyona zhangs that we grew up eating in our families in those gone by days so very long ago.

I would say here also that in the Chinese-made ones that I had had, the authentic taste was there but the meat would hardly be visible…and with a salted egg yolk (at times, not really all that fresh) added, the price would go up to RM3.00-3.50. In view of this, I would much rather go for these cheaper and nicer Malay ones…and the way things are going in this day and age when the young ones would very much prefer burgers and pizzas, who knows, one day, our descendants would enjoy eating ketupat daging (meat), not realising that they’re actually bak zhang, something that originally, their ancestors used to make.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

22 thoughts on “Sisters are doing it for themselves…”

  1. well, it’s not easy to be able to tie a dumpling nicely, either too loose or too tight will fail the whole thing.. so i just wonder are you able to do that the AA (Almighty Arthur), hehe..

    I do! I used to help my mum when she used to tie dumplings…but like you said, it was not easy and when boiling, they might come apart and make a whole mess. In the end, my mum did not want to make anymore and resorted to making them on a tray and eating them in slices like those Malay or nyonya kuihs. My MIL can make them very well but she’s old now too so she is not able to make them as much as she would want to – hers would be what we call the Hokkien bak chang with braised pork in soy sauce, sliced shitake mushroom and hay bee (dried prawns), not the nyonya ones with minced meat and ketumbar.

  2. i like this small size actually, probably just nice for popping into the mouth at one go, unlike the conventional ones, sometimes too big and quite clumsy when it fall apart into pieces..

    Not me. I prefer them BIG!!! No need to go through the trouble of untying or cutting the string and opening them one by one to eat… Hehehehehehehe!!!!

  3. so i guess the dumpling festival is just a month away, are you preparing to make your own dumplings?? i actually like dumplings, give me two and they can be my proper meal..

    Just a month away? I didn’t know that… I eat them all the time – the whole year through…but they’re getting a bit too expensive and often, those sold here are not very nice – not like my MIL’s…and actually, I prefer the nyonya type. Now that there are these nice, cheap ones, I guess I would be eating them more regularly. πŸ˜‰

  4. Oh, I didnt know that the Malays do this type of dumplings too… over here, I have yet to come across anyone who does. The ones I ate over here are the ketupat type, no fillings and eaten with curry.
    Nowadays one bah chang over here cost at least RM3 and above….

    Well, here they do! With a choice between daging or what they call kacang which in fact, isn’t peanut but tau sar. RM3, with salted egg or not? Hmmmm….should have got you to try the ones here – see what you think of them…and also these Malay-made ones. They sell them at the Bandong stall where you all bought the kek lapis.

    The irony is – we can’t buy those ketupat as we have always known them here! They do not sell/serve them at the satay stalls…but during Ramadan, we may get the different kind of ketupat, made with those yellowish coloured leaves and cooked in santan. So if we want those ketupat that comes with satay, we would have to buy the factory-made ones sold at the supermarts and grocery stores and boil our own. 😦

  5. Ohhh! Changs! Kat makes very good changs. Her chicken changs is the best in the world. LOL!

    Pat on the back, Kathy!!! Must KIV…and I know what I would ask for the next time she is coming to town. I’d prefer the pork ones, of course. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

  6. Neway, I had no idea the malays makes this kind of changs too. Over here, i can only see those ketupat nasi and ketupat daun palas in those malay stalls…not so common either… can only see during bulan puasa or raya time.

    Come over here and you’d be surprised by many other things that you do not get to see over at your side. Ask Kathy and the rest who came – they certainly were amazed and very impressed…and their only regret was that things are not the same over there.

  7. Yea I’ve seen some Malay bloggers making chang too which I think it is great. I am able to cook and bake but I still can’t master the art of wrapping/tie a chang. Just bought some changs and it cost $2.50 each and it is not even good 😦

    I’m like you – I belong to the tak-pass category – not perfectly conical and at times, dunno what shape…and prone to coming apart in the course of boiling. Good grief!!! Around RM7.50 for one!!! And I thought ours are so expensive…and though not the best, they’re really quite nice. πŸ˜‰

  8. Believe me or not , my mum just mention about nyonya zhang this morning !!! She told me her church friend will pass to her some nyonya zhang today . Hahahha

    We had nyonya zhang here too , I think they put sambal or hay bee inside or plain one ? I am like you , I prefer pork one . LOL.

    Ya , zhang festival coming soon . if I am not wrong , will be next month ? If by that time I am back , will bring some for you my mil wrap one . πŸ™‚

    You’re coming home next month!!! Hurrah!!! Can’t wait… We’ll go mam-mam… Slurpsss!!!! LOL!!! The nyonya zhang would have ketumbar inside – many in Kuching that look like it, minced meat, wrapped with pandan leaves and all…but no ketumbar so not fragrant – not nice.

  9. Those are tiny; hmm I never made dumplings like this before. However, I do believe I’ll be experimenting with a ‘rice dumpling’ soon. If it doesn’t turn out, well I won’t be blogging about it!

    Today I made Dhal, and yesterday I made another chicken dish with rice. I took a picture of both dishes, unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the chicken dish in time, and so have only a picture of my daughter eating hers. Such a shame, since I’d made a nice arrangement. πŸ™‚ Of course, the photo is still lovely, since she’s featured. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing the lovely photos.


    They have the non-meat versions of these dumplings – the ones with black red bean paste…and the Chinese have the peanut ones or with red beans as well. I must say that the Malays are very good at such intricate things – very good with their hands, but not me. I’m what they say here, “kasar” which means rough or coarse. I guess most men are, right? πŸ˜‰ LOL!!!

    1. That’s the first thing I thought about when I saw it. I said to myself, that would work great with some type of bean paste. I also have ideas about adding other veggies, but we’ll see… πŸ˜‰ It’ll be fun to experiment with the ‘rice dumplings’. Hopefully, I’ll have something to blog about.

      * I’m what they say here, β€œkasar” which means rough or coarse. I guess most men are, right? LOL!!!*

      Lol, I guess some are. My dad would be “kasar” too. I’ve always been good with my hands… hmm why does that sound naughty? So we shall see, how I do with these dumplings.

      LOL!!! Naughty, naughty!!! Ya…let’s see how your dumplings will look like and then we can say for certain whether you are “kasar” or “lembut” (soft/gentle). Hahahahaha!!!! πŸ˜€

  10. It’s chang season again! Yay!
    I’ve tried making them once before … not a problem *ahem* BUT oh so allergic to the bamboo leaves! Soooo itchy my hands were after that. So now, it’s ogling at peoples’ creations and enjoying their efforts … nom nom.
    Oh yeah, I like the yellow glutinous ones where you dip into melted palm sugar… another good use for the gula apung.

    We call that the kee-zhang…and sometimes they have red beans inside. Those are very very small – small than these and tied with thread. My mum loves them but not me – I don’t like the alkaline smell. Sometimes, it’s so strong, smells like urine. LOL!!! πŸ˜€

  11. i love ba zhang a lot..
    especiall the one that made by my MIL……..

    Lucky you! I hope my MIL will make some next month…or maybe when she comes over to Sibu, Annie-Q will bring me some that she or her MIL makes…all the way from KL. You wanna send me some of your MIL’s ones? I can give you Annie-Q’s phone contact… πŸ˜€

    P.S. Just saw your post. What a coincidence! You’re also blogging on bak zhang today! Great minds think alike. LOL!!!
    Oooooo…your MIL’s bak zhang certainly looks like something to die for. Yum! Yum!

  12. This is one thing I am totally helpless with! It looks so easy, but I can never do it nicely, so, I have long given up when actually I miss mum’s special peanut zhang!

    Hah!!! But at least you know how to go about it, many don’t. I do too…and I bet mine would be a whole lot worse than yours. Muahahahahaha!!!! πŸ˜€ Not a fan of the peanut ones – I’m a meat person…but it would be a good option for vegetarians like my friend, Opal in the above comment.

  13. My mom will always do it herself! Moreover, we all dnt really like outside one. πŸ˜€

    Ya, that’s usually the case. Now, the million-dollar question – can you make them if your mum doesn’t do it? Wink! Wink! πŸ˜‰

  14. I love Nyonya Chang and I always have some in my freezer for those malas days.I can make the fillings very nice ( ahem! ) but somehow I always errs on the saltiness of the glutinious rice. Like you, my tying pun belong to that tak -pass category. The shape is okay but will always bocor one…sigh!My next project will be the chang with bak and chestnuts and mushroom…chinese style.

    That’s what we call the Hokkien zhang… Add one Rajang hay bee (the straight ones you bought in Sibu), soaked to soften, to each one of them – will certainly enhance the taste. Hmmm…looks like we’re all in the same category – all half kati, eight tahil… LOL!!! πŸ˜€

  15. love bakchang. but i generally watch the amount i eat as glutinous rice does not agree too well with my tummy. over eating gives me heartburn.

    Ya, I think people with gastric problems suffer from that. My dad too, but then he’s 87 and has a lot of problems with a lot of things…😦

  16. courier some over ! LOL

    If you want it, here it is…come and get it! LOL!!! Yee Ling’s coming again soon…and Annie-Q too! You want some?

  17. I, for one, don’t know how to wrap bak chang. Have tried before but it seems that I just can’t pick up the skills. I think the easiest is to make the square shape one, like pillow. Ya, I saw the Malays making ang ku.

    Ya…me too. We all know how to go about it but we just can’t do it well – all kinds of shapes and they may “explode” while cooking. The pillow ones are Cantonese zhang, I think – something like lor mai kai inside. I like!!! But very expensive here – some RM5-6 each. Yup…they do have ang koo at the stall too but the skin tak pass, so tough…and the filling so very little, so I never bother to buy those.

  18. I love “Ba Chang” My mum’s best friend’s one are the best! She is an amazing old lady. 84 still going strong and making “Ba Chang” every year. YUMM! Can’t wait to taste her Ba Chang again soon. The ones here looks delicious and the rice is well cooked.

    Nice but soooooo…small! One mouthful, all gone! LOL!!! I thought your mum makes really awesome ones? Saw your photo on Facebook…so very nice. Drool! Drool!

    1. Arthur, my mum does not make ba chang, the one on my blog was made by me:D following instruction from her best friend. The only nice one that I can photograph out of a big batch of mess. hehehe.. It is so difficult to get the wrapping right, I give up, go buy better lah.

      LOL!!! We’re the same…like peas in a pod. Might as well go and buy. πŸ˜‰

  19. I’m craving for Red bean flavor dumpling.. Any one tried before?

    We have those here…and in Kuching also…except that I’m a meat person. None where you are meh?

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