Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bak Zhang

Short note: This will be my last entry from Malaysia, as I will be heading down to KL tomorrow morning to take my flight back to Japan on the same day. But before that, I will take a transit flight at Changi first, before touching down at Narita. It is going to be another long journey and I hope I will not feel too exhausted by the time I reach my room on Tuesday evening. Six-weeks of a wonderful summer break has finally come to an end, and it will be back to the same daily routine for me once more. I just cannot wait for the next trip home. When will that be? Anyone fancy a guess?
I know it is more than three months since it was the bak zhang season.
However, I managed to persuade my grandma to make some for me before I return to Japan, because I was still in Japan when people were enjoying the bak zhang back home back then. Remember how weirdly I celebrated the day by making curry puffs, out of so many things back then? So, I consider this as the redemption time for me personally. To those who are still in the dark about what bak zhang is, basically it is a Chinese traditional food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different kinds of fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Bak zhang is how we call it in Hokkien dialect, whereas it is called zong zhi (粽子) in Mandarin.
The glutinous rice, cooked with black soy sauce and some spices; and the filling, which compraises of pork or chicken, mushrooms and also some spices are prepared beforehand. I would say bak zhang will taste better if pork is used, compared to chicken. Furthermore, if chicken is used, we could no longer call it bak zhang anymore. We will have to call it keh zhang.
The ingredients (clockwise from top left): Glutinous rice, pork cooked with mushrooms, castanopsis (buah berangan)
and dried prawns.
Bamboo leaves are used to wrapped the dumplings and shaped into a pyramid shape. It is the bamboo leaves that give that special aroma to the bak zhang. Normally, the bamboo leaves and the strings are soaked in water first, so that it will not be that crispy and hard. Otherwise, the leaves will tear easily and will make it difficult when it comes to the wrapping part.
Soaking the leaves and strings in water.
Not everybody is able to wrap the dumpling neatly, unless they have been doing it frequently for years. Although my grandma does not make bak zhang that often, I would say she still able to wrap the dumplings nicely. First, two bamboo leaves are places together like it is shown in the picture below. Later, it is filled with some glutinous rice, fillings, dried prawns and some fried shallots. More glutinous rice are later filled into the upper part of the dumpling to cover the ingredients.
Then comes the tricky part - the leaves folding part. We have to make sure that every fold is nice and neat, otherwise the glutinous rice and fillings will spill out when we steam the bak zhang. The tying part is not an easy thing either, because if the bak zhang is not tied properly, it will loosen up later on. It is more common for us to use hemp string from banana trunks if the bak zhang is home-made, and it is not advisable to use rafia string to tie the bak zhang, because the chemical from the rafia string could leech into the bak zhang when we steam them. My grandma prefer the steaming method, instead of boiling the bak zhang in water because it will preserve the taste of the bak zhang more.
Filling the bak zhang with the ingredients.
It is easier to leave the string hanging down from somewhere when tying the bak zhang.
I felt like trying to tie one bak zhang by myself, after looking at my grandma a few times. I have to say that it was not as simple as it looked like, but I guess I did not bad on my first attempt.
My one and only.
After that, the bak zhang will be steamed for an hour or two, depending on the texture of the glutinous rice. The time required will be lesser if the glutinous rice is fried a while before it is used to wrap the bak zhang.
Water is filled underneath and has to be topped every time it gets dry.

Finally, it was the moment I had been waiting for. Makan time.
Closed sesame.
Open sesame.
My grandma made a myterious drink for me to go with the bak zhang.
Not just orange juice.
According to her, it is even better than taking Tongkat Ali.
P/S: This entry was inspired by Michelle's entry about the Nyonya version of bak zhang.


mg said...

inspired meh.. =P but looks so different from nyonya one lor.. =)

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
err, it is actually more to copycat-ed from your entry =P

Endoru said...

Wah, I am missing this real much as well. Anyway, have a safe flight back here to Japan. ;)

Anonymous said...

Im posting this here as u have stopped commenting on the previous post.I dont know who you are at all but i did notice ur blog thru one of my other frens.In ur last post u managed to stir up some controversy as ur fren said some things that are stereotyping and u decided to push things aside by asking them to stop writing nonsense.You seem to find it so hard to admit your friend's mistake. Surely you of all people should know when something is wrong.Is it just that you label an entire race according to the malicious actions of one person(s){THE TREE CUTTERS}?. Are you honestly saying that only Indians commit that tree cutting actions?Instead of trying to redeem your friend by avoiding the problem in front of the entire population, i suggest you take a different stand and admit flat-out that the things your friend said were completely not appropriate.Dont sway away from the mistakes that happened .What said is WRONG and malicious and you know it.Please don't pretend as though you have anyone to blame other than urself or ur friends.I can see that you do have friends commenting in ur blog that are from other races. In all fairness, what would have been a simple blog entry turned out to be a vicarious attempt to provoke hatred and angst.Do not simply "assume" i am the same person or "persons" from the earlier post.I do admit that some of the comments from the "doctor" and others seem fake but i assure you i am NOT. On a lighter note, I truly am sorry for what initially happened to you or ur tree.

Kae Vin said...


I guess I'll have to make this clear.

This is how my previous comments sounded:

"Lol. Like this also can make one post? Plucking jackfruit? But isn't the place a padang = public area? hahaha U can't blame the indians la. They thought someone ate banana and threw the seed there. lol"

First, I have to admit that I didn't know a banana cannot be planted by seeds. I am serious.

Second, I really meant what I said. I meant those Indian GUYS really thought that the tree is public. As I put it earlier that padang is a public place.

Third, I was so ignorant to differentiate between Indians and Indian guys. My bad. I apologized for that.

Stop leaving comment that pointed ur finger right into people's face and remained anonymous. Thanks.

calvin said...

@ endoru:
i am very sure that you will be able to have it the next time you are back home. thanks for your wish :)

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
hi anonymous!

first of all, thanks for dropping by my blog.

so you think that my post about the jackfruit managed to stir up some controversy? good point there. since you sound like you are demanding for an explanation from me, let me do it here to clear up everything for once and for all. it is just happened that it was an indian guy, but not malay, chinese or lain-lain that did it. similarly, one chinese guy could have come and cut down the sugarcane to be used during the chinese new year season, also for praying purposes.

so, i do not think that it is considered as an attempt to condemn other races. lets take it easy and stop talking unnecessary stuff which are unrelated to the entry.

as he has apologised for his comment, i don't think we should make this a big fuss anymore. at least he is man enough to admit his mistake, unlike some donkeys up there.

i respect your comment, but it would be much better if you do not remain anonymous in the future.


K3ViN said...

wah bak chang???? look yummy nia...... tat dink? let me guess, orange mix with egg? haha... wish u have a safe trip back 2 japan..... nice 2 met u also in person at USJ even it kinda rush 4 u.......

calvin said...

@ k3vin:
yes, raw eggs, but there is more than just orange juice and eggs actually. thanks and it was great to get to meet you the other day too :)

K3ViN said...

there is more other them orange n raw egg? what.. tell me? keke.....

calvin said...

@ k3vin:
told you it is a mysterious drink. i am not sure myself of all the ingredients used in the drink >.<