I’ve grown up calling a lot of things by a lot of different names. I say yao chao guai, but I also say you cha kuih, and most often I say 'crunchy stuff.' There was that time in the car when we kept talking about gula, and try as we might we couldn’t remember what it was in English. This mixing of words comes from being from Penang, where the town is quite Hokkien but my family is Cantonese and of course it’s in Malaysia and most people speak English.
Today is Duan Wu Jie, or the Rice Dumpling Festival, or the Dragon Boat Festival, or 端午节, or double fifth. On Duan Wu Jie, we make ba cheng, tie it up and hang it up, and then throw them in the river. I buy my ba cheng, and I eat it all up, no river-throwing for me (but also no dragon boats). The idea is to ward off bad health and things, and it’s either a commemoration of this old advisor, whose body was protected from fishes by zong zi in the water, and by the rowing and beating of drums, or it is part of the Madame White Snake mythology.
Ba cheng is also zong zi, it’s usually wrapped in lotus leaf but a variation for us heathen South-East Asians is banana leaf or pandan leaf. Ba cheng is glutinous rice with a tasty filling, mushrooms or chestnuts or red bean paste or an assortment of things. My favourite filling is mushrooms, chestnuts and fake chicken, a hold over I suppose from my childhood when my favourite filling was chestnuts and chicken (I like mushrooms a lot more now than I did then).
These ba cheng this year are from Lotus, I steamed them in the leaves for ten minutes before unwrapping and nomming.