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Nyonya Rice Dumpling

>> Jun 6, 2011

The Dragon boat Festival is here again and this time it falls on 6th June (Monday), today, which is the 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar Chinese calendar.

Traditionally Chinese families will celebrate this festival with Bamboo leaves wrapped Glutinous Rice Dumplings. However, these tetrahedron treats are now available whole year round as hawkers delicacies or even dim-sum in some places.

Read more about Dumplings, Dragon-boat Festival, history and this savoury treats here:

The making of rice dumpling is not as daunting as it sounds...

Nyonya Rice Dumpling appealed more to us, though rather uncommon unlike the usually available Hamyook (Salty-tasting Pork belly), some with or without beans, or salted egg yolks. The Nyonya dumpling has a distinctive sweet and savoury taste and the signature blue patch of rice. The sweet taste comes from diced candied winter-melon. Some people may be quite put off by this sweet-salty sticky rice treat, preferring the salty type. We like it for the rich and aromatic ketumbar (coriander) spice. There are many versions of Nyonya Rice Dumpling and I'm not here to argue or confirm which is authentic, and may differ from 1 family to another and may have slight “recipe evolution” along the way after several generations of hand-me-down… :-D

I have made this a couple of times but have not made it in the last 3 years or so as it’s too much hassle and mess just for three of us. I have found a short-cut, simple and save time, and why not?

Nyonya Rice Dumpling
(about 15 medium size dumplings)
At least 40 pieces medium-large size (no-tear or holes) bamboo leaves (soaked overnight in a plain water in a large bucket, rinsed a few times and wiped dry) – the leaves should be softened to ease wrapping and folding
Enough hemp strings or reed strings for 15-18 (can be soaked together with the leaves)

1.      Rinse bamboo leaves and reed strings a few times, trim off the hard stem (2-3cm) at the bottom of the leaves and wipe dry to use. If the leaves are still too hard, boil them for 15 mins to soften them to ease wrapping and folding
2.      Shake off water or wipe dry

380g glutinous rice (soak overnight in plain water)
120g glutinous rice (soak overnight in indigo blue-stain water) * refer below
1 heap tbsp. of shallots, chopped
1 tbsp of coriander (ketumbar) powder
2 tbsp oil
¼ tsp salt

Indigo Blue-stain (*)
30 pcs of dried Butterfly pea flowers (Bunga Telang) or Clitoria Ternatea, soaked in 2-3 tbsp of hot water for 1 hour
(or alternatively you can use a couple of drops of blue colour with a few drops of lemon juice)

1.      Rinse white glutinous rice a few times till water is clear, drain
2.      Heat oil and wok, stir-fry chopped shallots till fragrant and translucent but not brown
3.      Add in coriander powder, stir-fry for a minutes
4.      Add in glutinous rice, stir-fry for 10 mins on low heat
5.      Add in salt (to taste)
6.      Dish up and set aside to let cool

Pork Filling
400g Pork belly, cubed 1cm (I used lean meat, mui-yuk or you can use ground lean meat)
10 pcs dried shiitake mushroom, soaked overnight (reserve water), diced
90g candied winter melon, diced
2tbsp dried shrimps, soaked to soften, rinsed and pounded (can also be chopped very fine)
1 chilli, pounded (optional, I did not add this to make it kid-friendly)
10 shallot bulbs, sliced thinly
5 pips garlic, chopped small
5 tbsp of coriander (ketumbar) powder
2 tbsp oil
1 – 1 ½ tsp dark soy sauce
½ - 1 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp sugar (optional)
pepper, (dash generously) to taste
8 pandan (screwpine) leaves (5 leaves cut into 3-4cm in length and 3 leaves to be knotted for boiling)

  1. Heat oil in wok
  2. Stir-fry shallot on low heat till fragrant and translucent
  3. Add in garlic, stir-fry till fragrant but not brown
  4. Add in dried shrimp
  5. Stir in coriander powder
  6. Add in pork, mushroom, candied winter-melon
  7. Add in water (water reserved after soaking mushroom)
  8. Add in dark soy sauce
  9. On low heat cook till gravy begins to dry
  10. Add pepper, sugar and salt to taste
Note : Fillings should have a slightly stronger taste. The strong spices, sweet and savoury fillings will leak to the rice and eventually into the water when the dumplings are being boiled. So the finished product will have a milder taste which will be just nice.

Wrapping and tying
If you are a first-timer…please remember, your eventual product should resemble the following shape. Never mind that you can’t get the first 2 or 3 or 4 dumplings in the desired shape perfectly. This is not a lesson in geometry. As long as you can get something quite regularly shaped like this and tie them well….it’s fine!


Note : Do not tie too tightly, adjust the string tension on the dumpling…the rice insert will not cook too well and may turn out too hard. Rice needs space to expand as it cooks. After tying, you may shake it a little and hear some faint rice grain sound – the rice sound test! :-D ... You also don’t want what Chinese always say, “pau chung” – referring to one wearing too tight an outfit, and having the 'extras' spilling over above and below…haha :-D

1.      Nyonya dumplings normally uses pandan leaves for wrapping – now that would a real TEST since the pandan leaves are so slim, so instead, we put in 2 pieces of 3-4cm length pandan leaves when wrapping the rice dumplings to give the added pandan fragrance.
2.      Take 2 or 5 reed strings and tie to your kitchen cabinet door-handle (I did tis…and it is easier to tie the dumplings with one end of the reed strings only. The bamboo leaves are medium size and normally each dumpling needs 2 pieces of leaves
3.      Make 2 overlapping leaves into a cone, fill with 1 tbsp or more white rice, make a small well, fill with pork filling, another tbsp of white rice and some blue-stained rice

4.      Add in 2 pieces of pandan snippets
5.      Now the fun begins with folding
6.      If you are a novice, you may get them regularly shaped by the 10th or so ;-D – don’t worry!

Note : Make sure no tear in the leaves and the dumplings are properly tied or you’ll get a pot of sticky rice porridge? Can’t bear the thought of having that when you uncover the pot at the end of the boiling time to peek in…

1.     Bring a pot of water to boil, add in 1 tbsp of salt and sugar(optional) and knotted pandan leaves
2.      Remove the ties at the cabinet handle and tie the completed dumplings in batches of 2 or 5 and put them in the boiling water
3.      Make sure the dumplings are completely submerged
4.     Boil for 2 hours or so (Medium size dumpling requires about 2 hours and larger ones will take longer boiling time)
5.     Remove from water and hang to drip dry

Preferably served warm. It’s best to enjoy the rice dumpling with chinese tea.

Usually, Chinese takes the opportunity during the festival to turn this into a fun family affair (@_@) with grannies, grand-aunts, aunts, sisters, brothers, SIL, cousins, nieces-nephews, son-daugther being roped in to make tens of dumplings and enjoying them together – fostering family unity! We hope to keep this tradition alive...

I have read in some recipes that cekur (Sar Keung in Cantonese) or Sand Ginger, (scientific name : Kaempferia galanga Linn) is used. I’ll try with this root in my next experiment.

I was lucky to get the dried butterfly pea flowers from my neighbour and the very kind auntie also gave me some seedlings to plant.

Wishing all a very Happy Duanwu Jie – Happy Dumpling Festival – Happy Dragonboat Festival!

Source: For picture, name, uses and how to grow Butterflypea flowers
(Extracted from NST/6Jun2011) 

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kitchen flavours Jun 6, 2011, 11:07:00 PM  

Your Nyonya dumplings looks delicious! I have not made this for many years now. It's true that each family has their own version of making Nyonya Chang. When we were young, we love the Salty Chang, but as we get older, we learn to appreciate the Nyonya Chang more. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

Rita Jun 8, 2011, 12:57:00 PM  

Hi Kitchen Flavours, you are right! I need to make the blue-stain darker to be prettier :-)

Shu Han Aug 1, 2011, 5:59:00 PM  

Gosh nonya dumplings are soo much work! I love love love them and am so sad that I missed the dumpling festival because I was in London ): Yours look delish!

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