Well, it wasn’t me…but my friend/ex-colleague, Richard did.
It was raining cats and dogs that night and I was lazing around the house enjoying the welcome relief. It had been scorchingly hot here these days, you see…and the torrential downpour certainly helped cool things down a bit. All of a sudden, my handphone came alive:
“…but I set fire to the rain…”
It was Richard who was so nice and thoughtful as to brave the rain just to come all the way to my house to send me these nyonya zhangs (meat dumplings)…
He makes them every year and I am indeed most flattered that without fail each passing year, he will never forget to remember me and is always kind enough to set aside some for this poor ol’ friend of his. Hehehehehe!!! It’s a leap year this year on the Chinese lunar calendar and as a result, there are two 4th Months…and the annual Dragon Boat or Zhang Festival on the 5th day of the 5th Month has been pushed back until a month later but Richard is making them earlier now that the school holidays are here.
These are different from the regular Chinese zhangs as they are a bit sweet and at the same time, savoury…and there is ketumbar (coriander) in them that gives them the special and delightful fragrance whereas for the ordinary bak zhangs, they would use five-spice powder instead. If I’m not mistaken, they would fry the coriander seeds and then pound/blend into powder to use as an ingredient in cooking the meat filling for the making of these zhangs. The glutinous rice is not dark too…
…as soy sauce is not used in the frying prior to the wrapping using bamboo leaves. The meat is not minced but instead, it must be cut into little cubes and the dried shitake mushrooms as well – hence, it can be quite tedious and would not be as easy as preparing the filling for the regular Chinese zhangs.
Most commercially-sold nyonya zhangs are wrapped in pandan (screwpine) leaves for the fragrance but if not kept in the fridge and eaten quickly, they will not last very long and will go bad pretty soon. According to Richard, these bamboo leaves have a special quality and the zhangs that are wrapped in these will last very much longer. Sometimes, he will put a piece of pandan leaf inside and at other times, he would use the pandan to wrap the zhang on the outside,the bamboo leaf inside. That, of course, would mean extra work in the already-very-tedious process of making the zhang. I would think that putting a lot of pandan leaves in the water while cooking the dumplings would probably suffice and would serve to give them the much-desired fragrance and flavour.
We can’t buy this version of the zhang here in Sibu and we used to buy them from Kuching…and my brother, on the way back from New Zealand, would go all the way to Katong in Singapore to buy some to bring home but somehow, other than the fact that they were very expensive (those from Singapore, that is…especially after conversion), personally I did not think that they were all that nice – definitely not as nice as these…
…that Richard makes. Just look at that – it certainly looks good, doesn’t it?
Thanks so much, Richard. I really appreciate it…and yes, I will pass some to my mum who, I’m sure, will definitely love them a lot as well.
Ok, enough said! Time for me to get down to enjoying one or maybe, two… Yummmmm!!! LOL!!!