Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

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The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.

The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.

The celebration’s is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil’s nemesis, Chung Kuei. If one manages to stand an egg on it’s end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one. (source)

With modern technology, now we can feed the fish in 10 minutes! Go grab yourself a packet of 10 dumplings from the supermarket. Steam it and you can have yummy karn sui chung pronto. It is from KG Mantou and ditanggung halal. There are two choices, plain rice and rice and red beans.

Just a brief explanation. Glutinous rice soaked in air abu/alkaline water, edible of course/karn sui is wrapped in bamboo leaves and boiled for hours to soften. Sounds easy but it takes a little skill and lots of practice to get just the right amount of rice into the bamboo leaves. Otherwise, you will either get a hard blob of rice or mushy porridge-like rice. It also takes skill to tie the strings to secure the rice in the bamboo leaves. With so much risk, who wants to do it at home, right? Moreover, if your glutinous rice is mixed with normal rice, you may get hard sandy rice grains. The glutinous rice softens and turn yellow with the alkaline water but normal rice turned hard.

Hard eh? My mom nagged my two sisters so much when they were apprentice in making dumplings. In the end, I know I wouldn’t want to learn anything from mom ‘cos I can’t endure those nags. “Too tight, too loose, too little, too much, your hands are not holding it right, you have caused a major disaster, your rices leak……yadda yadda yadda.”


I decided to make myself some syrup using gula melaka and santan. Half piece gula melaka, one box of santan, pinch of salt and pandan leaves. Thickened with some cornflour.

The dumpling that had been steamed. The red bean paste is sweet so there is no need for the syrup. But who can resist santa and gula melaka? Slrrruuupppp.

I had posted a lot of posts on rice dumplings. You can search for the other posts in Food Haven and also this blog. Use key word like chung, bak chang, karn sui, rice dumpling if you wish to search for other varieties of rice dumplings.

6 thoughts on “Chinese Dragon Boat Festival”

  1. Oh how nice I can eat the kan shii zong whenever I want! Never notice there are some with ready to steam, thank you! Talking about the gula melaka, my mum used to cook extra much for me because the seller of karn shui zong tend to give little of that for us to dip.

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