Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bamboo leaves and Zhung Zhi

The one used for ba zhang should be the big leaf bamboo called Indocalamus tessellatus
This is a post of Tradition and nostalgia. The Zhungzi or zhung in my Cantonese dialect or commonly known in Singapore and Malaysia as Bak Zhang is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. Through the years in South East Asia, it has morphed into the Nyonya Zhung where the fragrant pandan leaf has been used to impart it's fragrance.

We ate this every year on the Lunar fifth of May, and we helped Mum wrap this difficult dumpling. I can make it but I am a lazy person, so I have not made it as an adult.

The History behind this dumpling and the Dragon boat festival associated with is Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu jumped to the sea when he was frustrated that the king did not listen to his advice. After his death, the people realized that the king had made a great error by not listening to him. By then it was too late, they threw rice into the sea so that the fish would not eat his body. The banging of drums on the dragon boats was to scare the fish away.

These days you can buy the tetrahedral shaped zhungzi throughout the year. My traditional Cantonese ones are rectangular shape like a pillow. My two older sisters Rose and Elizabeth can make them. Alas for me, too many decades away from home and combined with laziness, this tradition has died with me. I think I can make the tetrahedral shape of my mother in law, if I tried. They use a special kind of bamboo leaf which my mum grew in her garden. Most people buy from imported from China. The Vietnamese call this Elephant bamboo.

On Wednesday, just as I was about to start my Adult ESOL class, the ESOL administrator, my friend C gave me a pack and she had made some Zhungzi. I have forgotten it was the festival again. During the class, I was discussing with the class about lunch, and they talked about rice. We talked about the different ways of eating rice. A student brought up the dumpling made of sticky rice. My friend's Zhungzi came handy. I took them out and showed it to my students from Algeria and Peru.. What is more true than one picture is worthed a thousand words. I only had 4 of them, so I didn't want to let the students sample them.

When Sam saw them, he was very excited. He had not have Zhungzi for 4 years. No prize for guessing who ate most of them. May be I should try to make them.

I took the photo of the bamboo clump when I arrived on the Gold Coast. It was the same one Mum had grown in Borneo. Here where her body lay, they also grown the bamboo which we used to make Zhungzi. We used with without having to boil them as you would have to with the imported ones. The leaves were soft and subtle.

My friend and ex school mate has written about this festival. You may like to read about it.


Anzu said...

This is my favorite dishes♪
We call them CHIMAKI.
chi(竹/bamboo) maki(巻/lapping)
I hope to eat your dishes !!

Kim, USA said...

Hi Ann, my former boss ( a Chinese lady) called this Bah Zhang too. This is really yummy I missed this one already.
I planted plenty of veggies this year. I have tomatoes in different variety, okra, eggplants (the chinese kind), zucchini, acorn, cucumber, pumpkin, bell pepper(yellow,red,green because I am going to freeze if for winter use), summer squash. I just hope that the woodchuck won't come to the garden again and eat all my veggies which did happened last two years ago.
Happy Sunday!!

Ginny Hartzler said...

This is so interesting, Ann, I did not know about it! I haven't seen it on my sidebar yet, so thanks for the e-mail alert.

Unknown said...

Great share! I read your article, I liked it very much, you gave very good information about bamboo.
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