Learn how to make Hokkien bak chang in a pressure cooker or with boiling method. The recipe is a no fuss but with same great taste. Also sharing how to wrap zongzi
I’ve never imagined making zongzi or bak cang in Hokkien dialect, on my own. I mean this was something I took for granted. Either my mom would make them or my aunt would make some or my dad would buy some. Regardless, we always had some to eat. They are also available at most Asian grocery stores too, however, I always miss the one I had at home. Zongzi is traditionally eaten at the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (confused yet ? don’t worry about the day and the month, just focus on the food).
WHAT IS DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL?
The Dragon Boat Festival is the commemoration of the death of the great poet and official of the state of Chu, Qu Yuan, during the Zhou dynasty. He wrote a great deal of poetry during his life and serve in high offices. He was accused of treason during the warring states period. He felt despair and Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo river in northern Hunan. People who admired Qu Yuan made rice parcels and threw them into the river in the hope that the fish would not consume Qu Yuan’s body and ate the rice parcels instead.
MY GRANDMA’S STORY OF DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
The version I’ve heard, told by my late grandma, was that zongzi is made and used as one of the offerings for deceased people. Zongzi made with glutinous rice is sticky in nature, so it will be sticky when eaten using hands. Some Chinese believe that the deceased person isn’t aware that he has passed away and hence, when he eats the glutinous rice cones on the 7th day of his passing, his hands are sticky and when he washes hands, he will see his fingernails that have turned black (rotten). He will then know that he has deceased. So, the zongzi is used to help them realize that they have passed away and rest in peace. Interesting story!
Despite all the stories out there, no one really knows for sure. I just know that Zongzi is eaten all over the world, especially in Asia. Of course, as the Chinese immigrated to other countries, this culture is carried along and now is eaten in other parts of Asia and have been adapted to local taste too.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF ZONGZI
There are Cantonese bak chang, Hokkien bak chang, Teochew bak chang, Hainanese bak chang, and Nyonya Chang as far as I know. All are made with glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves but with different variations in filling.
HOKKIEN BAK CHANG
My Dad’s family is Hokkien and needless to say, Hokkien bak chang is what I grew up eating. Even though my mom’s family is Teochew, but I’ve never tasted Teochew bak chang before. Teochew bak chang has both sweet and savory filling.
Hokkien bak chang is much darker in color because dark soy sauce is used. The pork filling is also cooked in five-spice powder and water chestnuts and salted egg yolk are added. The glutinous rice grain is usually stir-fried in five-spice powder and dark soy sauce for that dark appearance.
WHY YOU’LL LIKE MY EASY VERSION OF HOKKIEN BAK CHANG WITH PRESSURE COOKER
After success with making no wrap zongzi in pressure cooker, I decided to try it out with traditional wrap bak chang. The Nyonya chang I made with pressure cooker turned out really great too. I simplified the recipe to make it less intimidating but I can assure you it still has the same great taste
1. NO SOAKING OF STICKY RICE
This is probably one of the best parts for me. The glutinous rice can be cooked in the pressure cooker without having to be soaked for hours or overnight.
2. SIMPLIFIED PROCESS
My mom usually stir fries the rice in dark soy sauce and shallots. If you want to do this, you definitely can. I did not stir fry the rice, but the rice still turn out dark in color because of the filling that I cooked with dark soy sauce lends its color to the rice. I also added store-bought fried shallot crisp (bawang goreng), which you don’t need to make from scratch, but this addition really adds extra flavor to the bak chang.
3. REDUCTION IN COOKING TIME
By using a pressure cooker, you save time significantly from regular 2- 2 1/2 hours of boiling down to 45 minutes!
HOW TO WRAP ZONGZI
1. Stack 2 leaves on top of each other. If you have ragged leaves, you can use another leaf to cover by overlapping them so there won’t be any leakage
2. Fold into a cone shape
3. Fill it up with about 1 Tbsp of rice and use the back of the spoon to pack it in and slightly create an indentation in the middle for the filling
4. Then 1-2 scoops of the filling (if not using egg yolk) and one egg yolk that you have halved earlier (if using) and 1 scoop of filling
5. Top again with a scoop of rice and press with the back of the spoon to make sure they are tight.
6. Fold one side down
7. Fold the opposite site down
8. Fold the top over
9. This is how it looks like at this point
10. Fold the 2 wings over
11. Now you have this extra piece
12. Fold it over to either side
13. Secure with a kitchen twine
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO WRAP THE ZONGZI?
Then this No Wrap Easy Pressure Cooker Zongzi recipe is for you. The family loves this version too.
Thanks to mama for the recipe and thanks Fuschia, for another great story behind this awesome food! I just had a bite and OMG!!!! Superlicious!!!! The sense of satisfaction for being able to eat it and made it from scratch!!!!!
Easy Hokkien Bak Chang (Zongzi-Sticky Rice Dumplings)
For the rice:
- 500 gr glutinous rice / sweet rice / sticky rice
- 4 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 bulb garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 50 gr dried shrimp soaked and drained off water
- 10 shitake mushrooms soak and keep water and slice into 1/2-inch strips
- 500 gr mixture of pork butt and pork belly cut into 2-inch chunks
- 12-15 water chestnuts
- 1/2 cup fried shallot crisp
- 6 salted duck's egg yolk halved (optional)- I didn't use them this time
Seasoning for meat:
You also need:
- 24-30 pieces dried bamboo leaves
- 1 ball of natural-fiber string
The day before:
- If you are not using pressure cooker to cook the bak chang, you need to soak the rice for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain off the water after that
- Soak the bamboo leaves in water and then discard the water and wipe the leaves dry with clean cloth the next day when you are ready to use them
- Soak the water chestnuts in water until soft. The next day, discard the water and remove the red membrane in the slit with a toothpick if you see any
Cook the pork filling the day before:
- Soak shiitake mushrooms in warm water until they plump up. Save the soaking liquid and top up to 2 cups with water if not enough. Cut off the stems and cut into small pieces.
- Soak the dried shrimp until soft and then discard the liquid
- Preheat a pot or Dutch oven. Add cooking oil and stir fry the garlic until fragrant. Add dried shrimp and stir fry for another minute. Add the mushrooms and pork and stir fry until the pork turn opaque in color. Add seasonings, water chestnuts, , and 2 cups of liquid you save earlier. Stir to mix everything. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to let it simmer and cook until the pork is tender but not falling apart, about 30-45 minutes. Have a taste and add more soy sauce or salt to taste. It should be savory in taste
How to wrap zongzi:
- Get the rice, the meat filling and the salted egg yolks (if using) ready for wrapping
- Generally, you will need about 2 leaves, stacking on top of each other. If you have ragged leaves, you can use another leaf to cover by overlapping them so there won't be any leakage
- Fold into a cone shape
- Fill it up with about 1 Tbsp of rice and use the back of the spoon to pack it in and slightly create an indentation in the middle for the filling
- Then 1-2 scoops of the filling (if not using egg yolk) and one egg yolk that you have halved earlier (if using) and 1 scoop of filling
- Top again with a scoop of rice and press with the back of the spoon to make sure they are tight.
- Fold one side down
- Fold the opposite site down. Most people don't fold the two sides and go straight to folding the top part down (as shown in the next step). But I feel like this helps me to wrap "neater" and shows the triangle shape better
- Fold the top part down
- This is what it looks like at this point
- Fold in both sides
- You'll have this extra piece on top now
- Simply fold it down to either one of the side
- Tie with a string. Repeat with the rest of the filling and rice
Cooking with Instant Pot pressure cooker:
- Place the zongzi in the inner pot of instant pot. I can cook 12 zongzi in my 6-quart instant pot. Fill up with water to make sure it covers the zongzi. Add 1 tsp of salt to the water
- Cover the lid. Turn the steam release valve to seal. Press "pressure cooker" and make sure it's on "high pressure". Set the timer to 50 minutes. Release pressure immediately after that
- Carefully open the lid and use a tong to gently remove the zongzi from the pot to a cooling rack. Let the water drips down. The zongzi will still be soft to touch. I recommend waiting 24 hours before eating them
Boiling on the stove:
- Place the zongzi in a large pot. Add in water until it covers the zongzi. Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp of salt and then lower heat to medium, cover with a lid and let it boil for the next 2 to 2 1/2 hours
- Carefully use a tong to gently remove the zongzi from the pot to a cooling rack to let it cool down for 24 hours before eating them. They will still be soft to touch, but will firm up once they are cooled down completely
- If you have leftovers, you can freeze the zongzi in the freezer and it's good for 3 months. When ready to eat them, you don't thaw them. They can go straight from the freezer to the steamer with boiling water and steam for about 10 minutes on high heat or until heated through