Dumplings galore: All you need to know about the traditional leaf-wrapped treat

A giant panda reaches for food wrapped in the shape of a rice dumpling at a zoo in Shenzhen on May 25, 2017.
A giant panda reaches for food wrapped in the shape of a rice dumpling at a zoo in Shenzhen on May 25, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on Tuesday (May 30), is also a traditional celebration of all things dumplings.

Also known as the zongzi, the pyramid-shaped steamed glutinous rice package, wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, has its roots in imperial China.

Here's a closer look at its history, the art of making and wrapping one and how eateries are coming up with new-fangled renditions to stand out.

Were rice dumplings inspired by the legend of Chinese poet and patriot Qu Yuan? Or were they the ancient Chinese version of fast food eaten by farmers?

There are also sweet and savoury versions, different shapes and an assortment of fillings to contend with.

The story behind rice dumplings

Rice dumplings are seen in a kitchen at Kim Choo Kueh Chang in Joo Chiat. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER 

Read all about its history and learn how to make a savoury dumpling with a bonus recipe here.

Unusual fillings - from unagi to duck

Roast duck salted egg rice dumpling from Crystal Jade. PHOTO: CRYSTAL JADE

While (healthier) multi-grain and brown rice dumplings were all the rage in Singapore in 2016, this year has seen eateries coming up with inventive new flavours.

Unusual meat fillings on offer include ginseng chicken, grilled unagi (eel), smoked duck with salted egg and lobster.

A guide on where to get your hands on them here.

How to wrap a dumpling

Wrapping a rice dumpling is not as easy as it looks - the process requires a firm grip and knowing where to place your fingers to make sure the filling is kept in place.

Securing it well, so the dumpling holds its shape during the long cooking process, is also an art.

Mr Chew Chin Peng, 70, second-generation owner of Hoo Kee Bak Chang, shows you how to do it right here.

Three dumpling recipes with a twist

Chef Amy Beh's version of a kimchi rice dumpling. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysian celebrity chef Amy Beh shares three unique recipes for rice dumplings, including a herbal bak kut teh version and a kimchi variation.

Learn how to make them here.

Cooking dumplings with raffia strings...safe to eat?

Rice dumplings are typically secured with raffia string. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER 

While there are no studies on whether cooking with plastic raffia string could pose a danger to health, dietitians advise using other materials.

This is because raffia is not made for cooking, and chemicals from the string might melt into the boiling water and be absorbed by the food

Find out what materials are suitable here.