This year the Bakchang Festival falls on 6 June. Usually a few weeks before the festival, the Chinese will be making and enjoying the bamboo leaves-wrapped dumplings. My favourite has always been the Cantonese-style “ham yook chung” which I make almost every year (see my post on that here).
A couple of weeks back I had the chance of trying Debbie Teoh’s Nyonya Chung and after that, I was so inspired to give this a try. So, I sent out an SOS for some “bunga telang” and my kind kahcheh went and took some considerable risks to obtain those blue flowers for me. I shall not divulge how those precious petals came about… but suffice to say I was so delighted with her haul that I had no reason to delay making the nyonya dumplings!
For the uninitiated, “bunga telang” aka blue clitoria flowers is a natural source for edible blue coloring. Of course one can use those food dyes that come in bottles but using bunga telang is the natural authentic organic way. It’s commonly used in Nyonya kuehs and rice. I merely poured hot water over the flowers and let them seep for about an hour and the water turned a lovely blue hue. I used the blue water to soak the glutinuous rice overnight.
Making Nyonya Chung is considerably faster and easier than making the Cantonese-style ones. For the latter, one has to pick and arrange a whole array of filling ingredients into the dumpling whereas for the Nyonya version, there is only one type of pre-cooked filling. I cooked minced pork together with chopped shallots, garlic, chinese mushrooms, candied melons with pounded coriander seeds (or take the easier way out by using coriander powder), some taucheo (soyabean paste) and flavoured with the requisite salt, sugar and pepper. Add in some pounded chillies if you want a spicier version.
When wrapping the dumplings with bamboo leaves, insert a piece of pandan leaf (about 2″ long) for some added aroma.
If you have a pressure cooker, it will cut down the boiling time considerably. I boiled them for only 30 minutes, resulting in a rice texture which is neither too chewy nor too soft. For conventional boiling, you may need to boil them for about 2 hours.
Note to self: Must use more bunga telang the next time for a darker blue! This first batch of Nyonya dumplings has a light tinge of blue – I think they’d look better with a darker hue, don’t you think so?
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