With just a few days left to the Dragon Boat Festival on 30 May 2017, it’s time to stock up on rice dumplings (bak chang) for the festivities. These addictive glutinous rice treats are typically stuffed with pork, preserved vegetables and chestnut, and presented in bamboo leaves. Recent years, however, have seen restaurants introducing creative and unusual interpretations with ingredients such as black truffle, wild rice and foie gras. Some have even infused local flavour into their offerings using condiments like sambal chilli.
For the uninitiated, the Dragon Boat Festival originated in ancient China and commemorates the death of Zhou Dynasty poet Qu Yuan — who, as the legend goes, drowned himself after his home state was captured by another. To protect his body from being devoured by fish, villagers threw rice dumplings into the river as a (tasty) distraction.
Morbid backstory aside, the festival is an event we eagerly look forward to each year, simply because it gives us the excuse to gorge ourselves silly on these carb-filled packages of joy. Even those craving healthier fare have a wide range of options to choose from, with eateries coming up with vegetarian-friendly dumplings incorporated with mock ham, barley, mushrooms and multi-grain rice. Here are 5 rice dumplings we recommend trying this season.
For lovers of all things spicy, try Jade‘s sambal chicken quinoa rice dumpling, which features glutinous rice spiked with homemade sambal chilli and punctuated with quinoa. Other options include a five-spice dumpling stuffed with pork, shiitake mushrooms and dried scallops, and a vegetarian dumpling filled with vegetarian ham, black-eyed beans, oats, brown rice, barley and cordycep fungus. The dumplings are available till 30 May.
Jade, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore 049178, +65 6877 8911/8912
If you can’t decide which dumplings to order this year, Resorts World Sentosa has got you covered with its Dumpling Festival Package, which comprises five different flavours from its restaurants — Tangerine, Forest, Osia Steak and Seafood Grill, Feng Shui Inn and Syun. Our favourite is Forest’s hearty rendition, which is punctuated with generous amounts of sea whelk, dried oyster and Hokkaido dried scallop dumpling. It reminds us of a double-boiled Chinese soup, but with a lot more carbs. The dumplings are available for pre-order until 27 May.
The dumplings can be collected from Feng Shui Inn, Crockfords Tower G2, +65 6577 6688, Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098138
Yan Ting puts an extra luxurious spin on the traditional dumpling by adding foie gras into the mix. Its rendition is packed with goose liver, smoked duck, pork belly, salted egg yolk, chestnut and lotus seeds. If that sounds too decadent, go for the restaurant’s nutritious option featuring black wild rice peppered with mushrooms and aromatic black truffle. The dumplings are available till 4 June.
Yan Ting, Level 1U, The St Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911, +65 6506 6887
Over at Cherry Garden, glutinous rice is paired with black garlic, sea whelk, preserved vegetables and kurobuta pork belly for a medley of sweet and savoury flavours. It is also dusted with bamboo charcoal powder, resulting in a grey hued appearance. Another highlight is the restaurant’s red yeast dumpling, which comprises rice, conpoy and rice wine-fermented minced chicken. These are available until 30 May.
Cherry Garden, Level 5, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797, +65 6885 3500
Filled with nian gao (a sticky and sweet rice cake flavoured with brown sugar), Hai Tien Lo’s glutinous rice dumpling can almost pass off as a dessert. It also contains multi-grain rice, so you can indulge without guilt, and is vegetarian-friendly. The establishment also offers heartier, protein-packed variations stuffed with pork belly. Order your dumplings by 30 May.
Hai Tien Lo, Level 3, Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039595, +65 6826 8240