Thursday, 28 May 2009

ba cheng for duan wu

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.

dragon boating in darling harbour

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).

ba cheng

These ba cheng this year are from Lotus, I steamed them in the leaves for ten minutes before unwrapping and nomming.


Léna, said...

anything stuffed in glutinous rice and wrapped in pandan/banana/lotus leaf is 100% up my alley. i just have no idea/no initiative atm to figure out how to make this stuff for myself
lucky girl tha tyou have the know-how and the can-do.

Anonymous said...

This sounds fantastic! Go you.

Cindy said...

That ba cheng sounds just like what we tried the other week. The wrapping of this one is so pretty. :-)

Eloise said...

I'm trying to learn Cantonese, because my mum and I are going on holiday to Guangzhou and Hong Kong in October! It's a bit tricky, but at least the grammar is easy.

The first thing I learned was ngaw sik jaai/I eat vegetarian. I figured if I could say that, I'd get by ;)

My co-worker is from Hong Kong and she's helping me with my god-awful pronunciation!!

steph said...

Hi Léna, glutinous rice is pretty awesome, and stuffing it in banana leaf gives it this amazing addition. It is SO AWESOME. You should check around, someone near you might make it, especially now around festival time!

Cindy, the triangle is the common way to wrap ba cheng. I suspect yours was wrapped as a square parcel because that makes it easier to walk and eat. :o)

Oh Eloise, you're so lucky! I would love to go to HK and Guangzhou, I long to go. Good luck getting by with Cantonese, remember to get your tones right! ngo sik chaai is the important one, you're right, but also try remembering the things you don't eat, mou dan, mou rou, etc. That might help. :o) Have fun! And I hope you tell me all about it when you come back (and the fooood).

Eloise said...

I'm worried about how close the word for "vegetarian" is to the word for "child".

If I get the tone wrong, people might think I want to eat their kid :/