SINGAPORE - Mr Chew Chin Peng, 70, second-generation owner of Hoo Kee Bak Chang, which started as a push cart in Amoy Street in 1948, is deft at wrapping and tying rice dumplings or bak chang.
He learnt the art of making bak chang more than 50 years ago.
He demonstrates how to fold the Hokkien-style pyramid-shaped dumpling at Hoo Kee's Bukit Merah Central outlet. There is another outlet at Amoy Street Food Centre.
Wrapping a rice dumpling requires a firm grip and knowing where to place your fingers to make sure the filling is kept in place.
Securing it with string is also an art - tie it too tightly and the rice under the string will not cook through, while tying it too loosely will cause too much water to seep into the dumpling during the cooking process.
When asked about the secret to making the perfect dumpling, Mr Chew said: "There isn't a secret. It's all about experience."
Preparation for a batch of dumplings starts at least a day in advance.
Steps include having to soak and wash the bamboo leaves; slicing and marinating pork with five-spice powder among other ingredients; and preparing other items such as chestnuts, salted egg yolk, and mushrooms, as well as frying the glutinous rice with oil, soya sauce and other herbs and spices.
Although rice dumplings are available year round, they are particularly sought-after in the lead up to the Dragon Boat Festival. The festival falls on June 9 this year, which is the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.
The festival commemorates the death of ancient Chinese poet and patriot Qu Yuan.
Legend has it that he committed suicide by throwing himself in the Mi Luo River in protest of government corruption.
Villagers then threw dumplings into the river to prevent fish from eating his body.
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