I grew up in a traditional Hainanese family with a devoted mother who cooked the best Hainanese Chicken Rice. I have fond memories of the comfort taken in the taste and flavor of the heritage dishes my mother would make. These memories are vivid and in abundance of loving reminiscence. One of these special dishes would be the glutinous rice dumpling.
As the first generation of immigrants to Singapore from Hainan Island, my parents were poor and very frugal. I don’t remember going out for a family meal on any occasion. Fortunately, my late mother was a great cook. I never got tired of eating her chicken rice or any of her home cooked meals. Her food was the labour of her love, the essence of every dish she made.
The tradition of glutinous rice dumplings
Second to my late mother’s Hainanese Chicken Rice are her glutinous rice dumplings, which she used to make only once a year during Dragon Boat Festival or DuanWu Jie. The festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC). The legend of Qu Yuan is also the origination of the Dragon Boat Race and thus the Dragon Boat Festival.
My late mother used to make over a hundred pork belly glutinous rice dumplings. These were gifted to neighbours, friends and relatives. I remember her conducting quality checks of the dumplings and choosing the most nicely wrapped dumplings for giving away. This was a manifestation of her perfectionism in food and generosity. Those days of sharing home cooked dish are now rare.
There are several different versions of Glutinous Rice Dumplings, including the popular Nyonya Rice Dumpling which has a sweet, savoury flavor of minced pork belly with five spice. Whenever I crave for a glutinous rice dumpling, I go to Kim Choo Kueh Chang (60 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427784). They make the best glutinous rice dumplings with a variety to choose from.
My favourite from Kim Choo Kueh Chang is their Nyonya glutinous rice dumpling. They have perfected the glutinous rice to minced pork belly filling proportion. If you get too much glutinous rice in the dumpling, you won’t get the satisfaction as the main flavor is in the minced pork belly filling, If you get too much of the minced pork belly filling, it is an over-indulgence.
Kim Choo Kueh Chang has also perfected the balance of savoury and sweetness in the fillings with just the right amount of sugar and candied winter melon. The glutinous rice is soft and the filling melts in your mouth. You won’t stop after having just one, but make sure you accompany it with some Chinese tea as it helps in digestion and reduces the “heatiness”.
I also like that they make mini dumplings so I can have a few different mini ones instead of filling myself up with just one big dumpling.
A new family tradition
Recently, my siblings and I gathered to make some glutinous rice dumplings in memory of our late mother. If you would like to make your own glutinous rice dumpling, I would recommend the recipe from Huang Kitchen.
All images from Winnie Chow unless otherwise credited.
Memories of Mother and Glutinous Rice Dumplings was our winner for Week 4 of the Be a Food Writer competition.