Friday, June 22, 2012

Nyonya Rice Dumplings (娘惹粽子)

Max is a super fan of Nyonya Rice Dumplings. So does my mother. Whenever I see him buy rice dumplings outside, he will definitely choose this instead of the ordinary savory rice dumplings. I'm not a big fan of it. But I knew there must be something magical in there that makes them go gaga over it.

The presence of candied winter melon and coriander powder makes this rice dumpling taste unique and yet addictive. I realized that I started to appreciate it after I learnt how to make Nyonya Dumplings...

I'm not a Nyonya nor related to any of the Nyonya Family. Thus, I don't have any special nor true-blue Nyonya grandma's recipe here. I read quite a few Nyonya rice dumplings recipe from fellow bloggers. Each and everyone has their different ways of doing it. In the end, I decided to give this recipe a try. But I did some modification on the ratio to suit my individual preference and also changed the way of preparing which I find it works for me.

It is my 1st attempt. I'm quite worried at the beginning. Nobody is guiding me. But for the sake of my husband, I tell myself that I should be courageous enough to learn lah. At least the cost for making Nyonya dumplings is not as expensive as the savory rice dumplings that calls for salted egg yolks and a big piece of pork belly meat on every dumpling.

The original recipe asking for 4.5lbs glutinous rice. That is about 2kg. I don't live in a family of 10 or feeding the whole village. And it's my 1st time making it, I won't wanna take the risk. So, I reduce the recipe drastically.

And the worst part is.... I can't find blue pea flower for my Nyonya dumpling, which really makes me wanna stab myself hard! Arrgh!!

I just go without it then :(

Here's my modified recipe that can make about 12 to 14 rice dumplings. I make 13 dumplings out of it. But it is better to prepare all ingredients counting 15pcs. Extra is better than shortage.

  • 600g Glutinous Rice
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbsp pork lard / oil (from pork fats)
  • Some pandan leaves, cut into 2 inches length. Prepare about 15pcs.
  • 8g blue pea flower (if you can't find, you may opt out)
  • 150ml water
  • 15 pcs big bamboo leaves, or make it 30 if you prefer to double up.

  • 400g Lean Pork Belly
  • 200g pork fats
  • 4 tbsp pork lard / oil (from pork fats)
  • 3 tbsp pork lard bits, chopped. (from pork fats)
  • 25g dried chinese mushroom
  • 100g candied winter melon
  • 25g garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 3 tbsp coriander powder or roasted ground coriander seed
  • 100ml water


The method is about the same as savory rice dumplings. Only the filling part is different. It takes 3 day in advance to prepare all the ingredients.
Day 1

1. Purchase all the necessary ingredient. You can purchase the pork and pork fats also. But I choose to purchase it on day 2 because of it's freshness.

2. Wash and soak mushroom overnight.

Day 2 (Purchase pork and pork fat if you haven't do so)

3. Prepare dumpling leaves. Boil the dumpling leaves for 20mins or upto 30mins if you are boiling alot of leaves. Remember to add in the grass strands and boil together. Let the whole pot of leaves cool down on it's own. I leave it there and I go to work. By the time I return home from work, my leaves are well soaked and turned soft enough. Use water to kinda gently wash them, drained. Use a cloth to wipe the leaves piece by piece. Set aside.

4. Wash glutinous rice for few times until water runs clear. If you are making blue color rice with blue pea flower, separate rice into 300g each. Bring blue pea flower and 150ml water to a boil. Leave it cool. Add in the blue water into one of the 300g rice. Add more water into the blue rice. Leave both white rice and blue rice soak overnight.

5. Wash, pat dry and cut pork into small pieces. Really small, but not minced. It's like about 1cm x 2cm in size kinda size.

6. Wash, pat dry and dice pork fats into small pieces. If you are buying your pork fats from Sheng Siong, they are already nicely diced. If you are buying readily diced ones, DO NOT WASH. Just leave it like that. Or else, you will have problem frying it.

7. Put all pork fats into a pan, cover the lid, cook it under low fire. Let it slowly fry the pork fats. The oil will immerse out on it's own. Let it fry till you see the pork lard bits turned golden yellow. Heat off, remove pork lard bits, and pour pork lard in a bowl, set aside. You will need to use it later. (Remember to keep remaining pork lard in the fridge for the next day)

8. If pork lard bits is too big piece, give it a few chop. We need to use the pork lard bits later.

9. Peel garlic and shallots, cleaned, finely chopped. Dice mushrooms and candied winter melon into tiny pieces.

10. Heat pork oil in a wok, fry chopped shallots, garlic and pork lard bits till fragrant.

11. Add in pork, salt, sugar, pepper and mushroom. Stir till the pork changes color. Add in dark soya sauce sugared melon and 100ml water. Continue to let it cook for about 8 to 10mins under medium low heat. We wont want the filling too wet, just a lil' wet will do. 

12. Add coriander powder and stir well. If the filling still wet, let it simmer for awhile. Taste. If you feel that the sweetness and saltiness suits your taste-bud, then, off heat, and dish up. 

13. It is better to keep it in a glass container like this. I love using glass container. It comes with a cover. Once it has cooled down, cover up and straight into the fridge for next day use. Convenient right?

Take a look at the fillings. It should be slightly wet, not totally dry. I know some people prefer their fillings totally dry. But I don't. I want to retain it's juiciness.

Always remember. You need to make your fillings more flavorful. You will be eating the fillings together with the glutinous rice, not eating the fillings just like that. If your fillings is not flavorful enough, you will end up eating bland rice dumplings. How tasty your dumpling is, it depends on how flavorful your filling is. 

Day 3 

14. The 1st thing you need to do in the morning is to take the fillings out of the fridge, give it a good stir. Let the liquid and meat well combined. Cover up, put it in a FREEZER for at least 1 hour. Yes! Freezer!

15. Drain glutinous rice. Set aside.

16. Stir fry rice - Take pork lard out of the fridge. In a pan, melt the cold pork lard under low heat. Add in drained rice, pepper and salt. Give it a good stir. Remember.... this must be done under low heat. We won't wanna cook the rice. We just want the flavor to get well combined. If you are having blue colored rice, you have to do it separately. I don't have it. So, I'd just combine both together.     

Now, the dumpling leaves are ready, rice and fillings also ready to use.  

To wrap dumplings:

1. Take 1 broad or two leaves and fold from the center to form a cone. Take a fistful of plain glutinous rice and a dollop of blue rice (if you have blue rice), line the sides.

2. Put 2 tbsp of pork filling over rice and cover neatly with more glutinous rice. Top with a piece of pandan leave before folding leaf over. Tie tightly with string.

3. Tie dumplings in groups of ten and boil in rapidly boiling water for 2 to 2 1/2 hour.
Throw some star anise into the water to enhance the fragrance.

4. Hang dumplings up for at least 1 hour to air-dry.

And you are done..

You must be wondering why must I freeze the fillings before use. Right? This is a method to retain it's juice. I want my dumplings to have juicy fillings, not dry fillings. Thus, I freeze it. When the dumpling is cooking, the juices will melt inside the dumpling while the rice is cooking at the same time. You could see my dumpling is not pure white. But has abit of brownish color. This is because the meat juices goes into the rice while cooking.

This method makes very flavorful and juicy Nyonya rice dumplings. Seriously, I love it this way :)

This is my 1st attempt on Nyonya Rice dumplings. I would say, I feel proud of it. I think I'm gonna stick to this recipe that I'd modified to suit my taste.

Husband gives two thumbs up to my Nyonya Rice Dumplings!

All hard work is really worthwhile :)

* * UPDATE : Some readers feedback that the ratio of the rice and fillings isn't accurate. Please note that I use generous amount of filling on my rice dumplings. Look at the photo again. Only a thin layer of rice, and the filling is really generous. So, it still boils down to how you want your dumpling to be. More rice? or More filling? If you intend to wrap lesser fillings, and more rice, please prepare more rice. * *


  1. Annie

    Looks good! I would suggest the following for better results:

    ~ use gula melaka instead of normal sugar
    ~ Boil the pork before cutting into small pieces, this it the traditional way my grandmother in law from Malacca teaches me
    ~ Heat your lard with star anise seed before pouring the rice in to cook.
    ~ Most importantly, you need Pandan leave to make Nonya Chang... If you can't find giant pandan leaves, use the usual pandan leaves. cut into 2 inches sections, insert just at the side of your bamboo leaves before u fill the rice and the fillings.

    Catherine Han

  2. Hi Catherine, Thanks for the tips!

    1. Okay! Use gula melaka sounds really good. But it's not easy to get it in Singapore :(

    2. If boil pork before cutting, dont the sweetness of the meat goes to the water? But it will definitely makes the cutting easier :D

    3. Heat lard with star anise! Yes! I will try that net time!

    4. I did! I did put in 2 inches pandan leaves at the side of the bamboo leaves before filling the rice. Hehhee..

    1. Great recipe. Thanks for the tips. Am just about to make them here in Ireland. Theres nothing like Nonya Rice All my family love them.

  3. We just made this here in New Zealand (yesterday and today). So good we almost cried! Thank you for the recipe :)

  4. hi, is 1 Tbsp of pepper too much ?

    1. Nyonya rice dumplings supposed to be on the peppery side. But again, this is individual taste-bud preference. Do adjust according to your preferred choice.