Traditional kee chang (alkaline dumplings) filled with Chinese red bean paste or plain kee chang served with palm sugar syrup or dipped in sugar. Can be cooked in Instant Pot too.
Duan Wu Jie (Dragon Boat Festival) usually is celebrated in May or June (depending on the Chinese Lunar Calendar), which means you will see sticky rice dumplings everywhere in East Asia and Southeast Asia. I talked more about the dragon boat festival on my other Easy Hokkien Bak Chang. Both kee cang and bak cang are commonly seen on this special day.
WHAT IS ALKALINE DUMPLING?
As its name suggested, the sticky rice is mixed with alkaline solution that makes the dumplings chewy and bouncy. The alkaline also turns the rice slightly yellowish brown in color.
The sticky rice is then wrapped in a cone-shaped using banana leaves and then boiled until the sticky rice literally sticks to each other into one beautiful cohesive mass.
The dumplings are then hanged to let them firm up before serving
PLAIN KEE CHANG WITH PALM SUGAR COCONUT SYRUP OR DIPPED IN SUGAR
I grew up with plain kee chang without any filling and usually served with palm sugar syrup or simply dip the dumplings in a bowl of sugar. I love eating kee chang as a kid because there’s nothing bring more joy than dipping the dumplings in a bowl of sugar! Biting into that crunchy sugar and sticky bouncy dumplings are pure foodgasm (so the husband said!)
SIZE OF THE DUMPLINGS
ALKALINE DUMPLINGS WITH RED BEAN PASTE
Then there are also version of kee chang filled with Chinese sweet red bean paste, which my daughter loves a lot too. She loves the sweet red bean paste.
There are so many different ways to wrap dumplings and I’m by no means an expert, but I just want to show you how I wrapped mine. Kitchen twine or strings is easier for me to work with, feel free to use whatever strings you want to use.
HERE’S HOW I WRAP ALKALINE DUMPLINGS (WORKS FOR OTHER TYPES OF ZONGZI TOO)
1. Get the leaves, red bean paste (if using), and the sticky rice
2. Use two bamboo leaves and place one on top of the other, I kinda slightly overlap them a bit to give a bit more space
3. Fold in the middle
4. Here you get yourself a cone shape
5. Fill with sticky rice and kind smear/spread the rice towards the side too
6. If using red bean paste, simply place one ball of red bean paste in there. If making plain kee chang, simply filled it up with sticky rice to 3/4 full
7. Top with more rice to cover the red bean paste. It should be about 3/4 full
8. Fold one side down
9. Fold the other side down
10. Fold the top part down
11. Fold the two wings on the side down. Now you have this extra piece on top
12. Simply fold it down to either one of the side
13. Secure with a kitchen twine
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER KEE CHANG
STORING: Zongzi freezes well in the freezer. Once they have cooled down completely, do not unwrap the dumplings. Leave them as is. Simply transfer them to a freezer bag and they can be kept for up to one month.
REHEATING: You can thaw them in the refrigerator the day before and simply reheat in the steamer on high heat for 10 minutes. They can be reheated without thawing but you need to steam them longer for 15-18 minutes or until heated through.
For alkaline dumplings with red bean paste I don’t usually drizzle any more syrup, but my kids love the extra drizzle of syrup.
For baking/ kueh making: I highly encourage to weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION (UNSIFTED)
- 400 gr red bean paste
- 20 or more bamboo leaves
- Kitchen twine to tie the dumplings
Palm sugar coconut milk syrup:
Serve with (choose one):
- White sugar
- Palm sugar coconut milk syrup
Prepare the syrup:
- Place the palm sugar (coconut sugar) and water in a saucepan. Let it cook until the sugar has melted. Add in the coconut cream and stir until the mixture is well combined and slightly thickened. Store in a jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks
Prepare bamboo leaves:
- Soak the bamboo leaves in water the day before you plan to boil the dumplings. Drain off the water used to soak the bamboo leaves. Give the leaves few rinse of water. The soaked bamboo leaves should be supple and easy to fold now after being soaked. Wipe them dry
If boiling kee cang on the stove:
- Soak the rice overnight for 8 hours if you have the time, otherwise at least 4 hours. Drain off the water. Add alkaline water and cooking oil
- Use a spoon to mix. You will notice that the rice will change color slightly to be yellowish due to the alkaline water
If using Instant pot pressure cooker to cook the dumplings:
- No need to soak the rice. Just rinse the rice with clean water and then drain off the water. Add alkaline water and cooking oil. Use a spoon to mix. You will notice that the rice will change color slightly to be yellowish due to the alkaline water
Wrapping kee chang:
- Roll the bean paste into a ball, about 40 grams each. Pick it up with both hands, and fold it to form a cone. Fill it up with rice leaving about 1/4 inch on top of the leave. Fold the top of the leave down covering the rice and then fold the two sides and fold again to form a triangle. Secure the dumpling with strings
- Lay two bamboo leaves horizontally. Fold in the middle. You just made a cone
- Fill with about 2 Tbsp of sticky rice and kind smear/spread the rice towards the side too. Add the red bean paste ball. Cover with more rice until about 3/4 full. Don't fill all the way up or the dumpling will burst open when cooked because the rice will expand and the dumplings will turn out tough too
- Fold both sides down. Fold the top part down. Fold the two wings together. Then fold this extra piece to either side. Secure with a kitchen twine
Boiling kee chang on the stove:
- Place the dumplings in a large pot and fill it up with water, covering the dumplings. If you soak for 8 hours and more, it will take about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to boil the dumplings. If you soak for 4 hours, boil for 2-3 hours. Test the dumpling by getting one out from the pot and when it's cool enough to handle, gently open up the leaves. If the rice doesn't fall apart and hold up together nicely (though may still appear soft because it's hot), the dumpling is done cooking. If the rice falls apart easily, you need to boil longer
Pressure cook kee chang in Instant Pot:
- Place the wrapped kee chang inside the inner pot of Instant Pot. Fill it up with water until it covers the kee chang. Close the lid. Turn the steam release valve to sealing. Press pressure cook, and make sure it's on high pressure and set the timer to 50 minutes. Release pressure immediately after. Test the dumpling by getting one out from the pot and when it's cool enough to handle, gently open up the leaves. If the rice doesn't fall apart and hold up together nicely (though may still appear soft because it's hot), the dumpling is done cooking. If the rice falls apart easily, try to pressure cook another 10 minutes and see
- The dumplings are slightly soft at the end of cooking (this is normal). They will harden as they cool down. I place them on a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet to let the water drip off and cool down
- The kee chang are best served the next day. You can serve by dipping in white sugar or in the syrup. Red bean kee chang can be served on its own or with extra syrup on the side too