It’s coming soon – the Zhang or Rice Dumpling Festival also known as the Dragon Boat or the Duan Wu Festival.

This year, it will fall on the 9th of June and everywhere, all over town, you will see people selling the dried bamboo leaves and the grass to tie the dumplings with. These would have to be soaked first before use and I would prefer the grass to those plastic nylon strings. All this while, there has been talk about the danger of boiling plastic and rumour had it that some people would melt plastic bags in the oil to fry the banana fritters (pisang goreng) and stuff to make them crispier and to prevent them from going limp after a while…and that made me wonder – wouldn’t boiling the dumplings tied with those strings for hours pose a danger to health as well?

As for the leaves, I heard that the dumplings wrapped in these bamboo leaves would keep longer – the ones wrapped in pandan (screwpine) leaves tend to go bad very quickly. That is why sometimes, you will see the dumplings wrapped with the bamboo leaf inside and the pandan leaves on the outside. I guess if you just wrap them in the bamboo leaves and add lots of pandan in the water while boiling, you can still get the much coveted fragrance as well.

We do have what we call the Hokkien Zhang all over town here – the dark coloured ones with the sauce from the stewed pork cooked and used for the filling but these days, those that I had bought, at RM2.50 each, turned out to be most disappointing. The taste was there but there would not be any sign of any meat in it. If you go for the salted egg ones, RM3.50 each, I think, you would be able to detect the taste of the salted egg but if you think you will get to see the salted egg yolk be it half of it or a quarter, dream on! As a matter of fact, salted egg isn’t all that expensive – around RM1.00 only for one whole egg. My missus loves this type but for me, it will have to be the nyonya zhang, no less – the ones with smaller chunks of meat, a little sweet (some people add finely-chopped water chestnuts but my friend, Richard, said he used winter melon or one of those sweet fruits) and the wonderful fragrance of ketumbar (coriander).

And talking about Richard, he dropped by my house the other night to pass me these…

Nyonya zhang from Richard

– his own homemade nyonya zhang, bless him for being always so considerate and so thoughtful as to remember me this time every year. He did not make any last year for some reason and this was the year before…and this was in 2013 and so on and so forth.

Of course, his would have a whole lot of meat inside…

Richard's nyonya zhang, lots of meat inside

…compared to those commercially-made Hokkien zhang and we can’t get these nyonya ones here, not at all, so that makes his extra special. I have seen some of those being sold outside in all shapes and sizes and even the tying with the grass string was so unsightly messy…and they do not even taste good! Probably everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, cashing on this festive season to catch unsuspecting victims who would end up buying as they do have much choice, being unable to make their own.

Of course, Richard’s has that perfect triangular cone, a true beauty…

Perfect cone

…and a testimony to his expert skill in tying these dumplings and see how the glutinous rice does not stick to the leaf…

Richard's nyonya zhang, does not stick to the leaf

…unlike some that I have bought from outside and I would have to scrape the rice off the leaf with a spoon to eat.

No, no, I did not eat them all at one go. The next morning, I just heated up two, one for me…

Richard's nyonya zhang

…and one for my missus for temporary relief, to appease the craving. I’m keeping the rest in the fridge for the actual day – otherwise, I will not have any to enjoy when the festival comes around.

Thank you so very much, Richard, for your lovely zhangs. It sure is an exclusively special honour and my utmost pleasure to receive them from you each year.

Author: suituapui

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

14 thoughts on “Soon…”

  1. I like zhang, it’s not that difficult to find nyonya zhang in KL. Problem is the ones in KL is super expensive… the only time I get to eat is when my dad bought a lot from the morning market. I wouldn’t be spending that much money when it’s cheaper to order a plate of roasted pork rice.

    True! True! And the size is not enough for me, not at all filling – I would need two, at least! How many plates of noodles can one enjoy with that kind of money!

    Nyonya zhang in KL? Where? Where? Dunno where I can find any – had to go all the way to Melaka – so expensive, nothing special…and the woman there so snooty like hers was the best in the world. Used to get from Parkson/Giant supermarket (Sg Wang basement), chicken, a long long long time ago. None available there for a while now. All I saw around KL seemed to be those Hokkien/Chinese ones, not my favourite. Can get nyonya ones in Kuching but must know where to go to get the really good ones.

  2. So fast! Just feel like yesterday I were eating zhang! Last year hubby ordered from an ex-colleague’s mum. Very good bak chang. We loved it. We freeze them so can keep longer.

    So nice in Kuching, some very nice ones. So easy, can just go and buy anytime – the nyonya ones. I would buy a lot home, 10-20, eat some and keep the rest in the freezer to take out and heat up and eat when the craving sets in. My favourite is the Green Road Ah Mu ones…

  3. My love for Nonya Chang started when I was working in Singapore way back in the 90s and since we have back to Sibu, I could not buy any here. Richard gave us some in 2014 & though I have eaten the ones I bought from Kuching, I still prefer Richard’s Nonya Chang…

    Yes, so sad. Nobody making and selling nyonya chang in Sibu, have to go to Kuching to buy. Richard didn’t make last year and this year, he said he only made a few. I used to give to my mum too but not this time – she can’t eat pulut these days, it seems, cannot digest.

  4. How nice! I love it when a friend gives me a home cooked meal! 🙂

    Yes, the love and the passion that go into it – can’t get that anywhere outside.

  5. I love all types of “zhangs” including “kee chang” but I only buy zhangs
    that are tied with grass strings & not nylon strings. Richard’s homemade zhangs looks great. Yummmsss!!!

    Last time, everyone said nylon strings were better. Those grass strings would break easily. Now, I guess some people know better, not all – still see a lot tied with nylon strings. My mum loved the kee zhang from the phong peah shop in Padungan – but she can’t eat them now, problem with digesting pulut, old people.

  6. Love zhangs. Especially nonya ones.

    The Katong ones are very famous – my brother would buy en route home from NZ but the last time I bought some from Kuching for my sister, she said the Kuching ones were nicer.

  7. Oh! I also prefer Nonya Zhang. Love it! Lucky you, getting your supply so early 😀

    Indeed. Expecting to get some from Kuching some more. So blessed!!! 😉

  8. Yay! Dumpling season! Always love bak chang esp the so expensive one, but as long as it’s worth it, I dont mind buying.

    What expensive one? So far, the nyonya ones at Green Road, RM4 & RM5 with yam. Ya…quite expensive, kolo mee costs less but it’s ok, once in a while.

  9. Indeed an exclusive gift! Nyonya changs are not easy to obtain over here as well… need to order or book in advance. Nowadays I don’t eat as much sticky rice as I used to do before, one chang can last inside my stomach for the whole day and I do not feel like eating anything else… Yes, I have gained weight and I blame it on durians.. that… I really cannot resist!

    I would rather have chang instead of durian, thank you very much. Why? Hard for you to digest? Like my parents? Aiyor!!!! You’re old already lor! Muahahahahahaha!!!!!

  10. Just bought beef and chicken chang yesterday at the hospital. Taste not so bad too. I love eating chang.

    We have chang at the Malay kueh stalls here too, nice – red bean or meat. The meat one is a watered-down version of the nyonya chang and is quite good too, can’t expect the whole works for just RM1.00 each the last time I bought them. What I admire most is how they can make them so small and get them perfectly-shaped unlike some of the Chinese ones around here…but they used nylon string to tie…so I have not bought for a while now.

  11. Homemade zhang always the best. I have not taste one with winter melon inside. I think it’s quite an interesting ingredient to add in.

    I think it makes it sweet. Normally, in nyonya zhang, people add water chestnuts but those are smell – very tedious to peel and chop, will need quite a lot.

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