Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Mama's Savoury Rice Dumplings (我妈妈的咸肉粽)

Wanna have a piece of Rice Dumpling? You prefer Sweet Dumplings or Savory Dumplings?

Well, I like both. Hehe :)

There are many types of rice dumplings out there. Cantonese, Hokkien, savory, sweet and the list goes on...

The very last time I had my my mother's home-made rice dumpling was like.... 10 years ago. Yes, u didn't hear me wrongly. It's 10 years!!! Pathetic. Haiss...

She used to make rice dumpling often. Although she don't really make it every year, but often enough for me to "lock" the flavorful dumpling taste and it's fragrance smell in my memory. But I have no interest to learn from her last time. Sigh! Serve me right for not able to eat it for 10 years! 


Year over year passed by, I longed wanted to eat her dumplings. But she ignored me. Ever since my father passed away, the more she don't have the interest to make dumplings anymore. I had been begging her for 2 years, just to ask her to teach me how to make this. As usual, I get ignored. I don't wanna let this rice dumpling tradition to fade away. Not in my family. Not at my generation. I wanna let my future child to be able to taste this! And till now, I still couldn't find a shop-bought rice dumpling (in Singapore I mean) that can really wow me. And the price of a good quality rice dumpling in Singapore is like a price of gold!

My mama is getting older and her memory sometimes fluctuate. She tends to be forgetful! She is in Singapore for holiday for the past two weeks, and I'm gonna grab the opportunity. I bug her to teach me and I make her tell me her recipe before she forget everything! I know it's never be easy to make rice dumplings. It's oily and messy. But, no matter how hard, I must persevere!

Mama's memory is really bad. She didn't stay with me during her stay in Singapore. So, mama didn't shop for ingredients together with me. From choosing the right meat, the right quantity of every ingredients, the right dumpling leaves to marinating meat. Everything is done by my own.

How I did it? Here, I call her...
Me : Hello Ma, I'm going to get the ingredients ready. What should I buy?
Mama : Leaves, glutinous rice, pork, mung bean, dried shrimps and bla bla bla.... Standard la.
Me :  Urgh! Erm...Okays.. What is the quantity? 
Mama : U just agak-agak loh! (just estimate it)
Me : ??? How to ??? U at least must tell me a rough guide right?
Mama : 1 kg Pork, 1 kg glutinous rice, 1kg mung bean. The rest just agak-agak can liao.
Me : Huh??? Mom??!! 1kg Pork, 1kg Rice, 1kg mung bean?? Are you sure??? 
Mama : Aiya.. I just agak-agak only loh. I also forgotten. 10 years never make already.

She win liao (-___-)

So, with her big word "agak-agak", I worried I will "gena Hollanded" (misleaded) by my mama, and I might end up don't have enough rice for all the ingredients. I quickly googled a few rice dumpling's recipe and do comparison on their rice and meat ratio. So that I could have rough idea.

True enough, my mama's ratio is wrong! Arrgh!!! But she insisted that she is right. So, I just don't wanna argue. So, without telling her, I prepare more than what she asked for. With no one else that I could rely on, I have to depend on myself on all the preparation work. So, I increased the glutinous rice, and I reduce the mung bean. And luckily, the ratio that I estimated is just nice.

Before all the long-winded dumpling making process, here's the shopping list. With this, you should be able to make about 45 to 50pcs of dumplings. Depends on the size of your dumpling. I make 47 dumplings here.

1½kg Glutinous Rice 糯米
700g Dried Mung Bean 开边绿豆 - Yellow Color type. Not green type.
200g Small sized Chinese Mushroom 冬菇 - About 25pcs (Est. about 1½ inch size would be fine).
250g Chestnut 栗子- You should get about 50 to 55pcs
1kg Pork Belly (Skinny part) 五花瘦肉
300g + 100g Pork Fats 肥肉 (Read on, and you will know why we need this)
25pcs Salted Egg Yolk 咸蛋黄
150pcs Dumpling Leaves and Grass Strands 粽子叶 / 粽子绳
200g Dried Shrimps 虾米
20pcs Star Anise 八角 <---- This is the secret recipe!
100g Garlic 蒜头
300g Shallot 葱头
60g Ginger 姜

Seasoning needed
Hua Diao Chinese Cooking Wine 花雕酒
Oyster Sauce 蚝油
Five Spice Powder 五香粉 - Buy from Chinese Medicinal Hall.
Soya Sauce 酱油
Dark Soya Sauce 黑酱油
Sugar 糖
Pepper 胡椒粉
Salt 盐

Please make sure that you have all the seasoning at home before you start. It will be less messy.
And here's the seasoning ratio :

Marinade Pork Belly and Pork Fats (2 days in advance)
2 tbsp Sugar
4 tbsp Hua Diao Chinese Cooking Wine
8 tbsp Soya Sauce
1 tbsp Pepper
1½ tbsp Five Spice Powder
3 tbsp Oyster Sauce
Ginger Juice from 60g Ginger. (Skinned, finely chopped, juiced)

Glutinous Rice (Actual Day)
Pork Lard from 100g Pork Fats - cut into small cubes, fry with 2tbsp of oil. This will create pork lard. Discard the pork fats before you add in the rice.
3 tbsp chopped shallot
1½ tbsp chopped garlic
1½ tbsp Sugar
3 tbsp Oyster Sauce
2 tbsp Five Spice Powder
2 tbsp Salt
1 tbsp Pepper
1½ tbsp Dark Soya Sauce

Mung Bean (Actual Day)
3 tbsp Oil
2 tbsp Shallot
1 tbsp Garlic
1 tbsp Five Spice Powder
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper

Dried Shrimps (Actual Day)
½ tbsp Oil
½ tbsp Pepper
½ tbsp Shallot
½ tbsp Garlic

Mushrooms (Actual Day)
1 tbsp Oil
½ tbsp Shallot
½ tbsp Garlic
½ tbsp Sugar
½ tbsp Oyster Sauce
¼ tbsp Salt

Chestnuts (Actual Day)
½ tbsp Oil
½ tbsp Five Spice Powder

Here, I will write down the method based on 3 days schedule, so that you will be able to plan your time nicely by spreading the work in different days. Less tired and more organized. Trust me. I did my preparation over weekday (after work), and wrap my dumpling on weekend. The schedule is just nice.

Day 1 (Purchase and Preparation)

1. Purchase all the necessary ingredients. 

2. 1kg pork belly - cut into 50 pieces of big chunks, about 20g each piece. 300g pork fats - cut into 50 pieces, about 6g each piece. Marinade both pork belly and fats and keep it in air tight container and straight to the fridge. It is always better to marinade your meat 2 days in advance. Your meat will taste more flavorful. You could pack them in a plastic bag to differenciate the sizes of meat if you wish. I did that at the begining. But later, my mama says that it is not necessary. Just agak-agak will do. So, she end up ask me to mix both pork belly and fats together. Urgh!

3. Skinned your shallot and garlic. Put it in a container, keep it in the fridge.

Day 2 (Preparation)

1. Prepare dumpling leaves :

a) Use a big pot that can fit in all your 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. If the leaves floats up, use something heavy to sink it down. Just like this....


b) 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.

c) Use water to kinda gently wash them, drained.

d) Use a cloth to wipe the leaves piece by piece. By doing that, your leaves will be dry from water, but moist enough to use.
* Please bear in mind that you cannot do this too early. If you are using the leaves the next day morning, the earliest you can do this is the night before you sleep. If you do it too early, your leaves will dry up and crumpled together.
2. Prepare the rest of the ingredients :

a) Wash glutinous rice for several times, until you don't see the milky residue any more. Soak the washed rice in water overnight.

b) Wash chinese mushrooms several times to remove dirt. Soak overnight. When it is soft enough, remove the stem and scissor the mushroom into half. You won't need such a big piece of mushroom in your dumpling.

c) Wash chestnuts, soak it for half hour. Use a sharp object (eg.knife/fork) to remove the membrane and dirt from the chestnut. Wash again, and soak overnight.

d) Cut salted egg yolks into half, keep them in air-tight container and straight to the fridge.

e) Take out your skinned garlic and shallots from the fridge. Finely chopped. Keep it in a container and put it back to the fridge.

f) Take out your marinated meat and fats and check. If you are wrapping them in a plastic bag (like me), give your plastic bag a few squeeze. To kinda even up the marinate mixture, so that every piece of meat are evenly marinated. If you are marinating it in a big container, just use spoon to give your meat a mix, and put it back to the fridge.

Day 3 (Wrap Dumpling Day)

1. Use a big wok, stir fry all the ingredients. (Refer to the seasoning ratio and stir fry accordingly)
  • 1st - Stir fry dried shrimps.
  • 2nd - Stir fry mushrooms.
  • 3rd- Stir fry chestnuts.
  • 4th - Stir fry green beans.
  • Lastly - Stir fry glutinous rice.
* Especiall for stir frying the rice, do take note that it must stir fry under medium low heat. We just wanna add fragrance to the rice. We don't wanna cook it. If you stir fry the rice under high heat, the rice will end up cooked at the surface, and the rice will turned sticky, and it's like... it has a wall of glue glued at every rice grain. When you wanna cook the dumplings, the grains will never get cooked deep in thoroughly due to the sticky wall on the grain. You might end up having whole pot of dumplings that has half-cooked rice in there.

All ingredients are ready now.  

For the assembly part...

  1. A scoop of glutinous rice. Create a well in there.
  2. Add in some dried shrimps in.
  3. Continued with mushrooms, chestnut and salted egg yolks
  4. Add a piece of pork and a piece of pork fats.
  5. A scoop of mung bean.
  6. And cover with about 2 scoops of glutinous rice. Press it down gently before wrapping up. 
After the above 6 steps, using your hand to firmly pack the rice, but gently. Fold in the leaves, and tie with grass strands.

Easy right?

Actually assembly part is easy, wrapping part is not. There's a reason why my mama insisted on the assembly sequence.

At one end of the rice, there's sweetness of dried shrimp. At another end, there's generous amount of mung bean. The existence of that piece of sinful pork fats is not for us to eat. We discard them when we eat actually. It is to add a pleasant fragrance and moist to the mung bean and the rest of the ingredients. Do take note that the taste of the mung bean plays a big part to derive the yumminess of the dumpling. You won't wanna eat bland and beans don't ya? So, the dried shrimps must be at one end, the mung bean and pork fats must be at the other end. So that the flavor will be evenly distributed and it won't have conflict.

Oh well, that's mama's logic :)

It is now ready to cook! Excited!!! Gan-cheong-ness!!! :D

Throw some star anise into the pot of water, let it boil under high heat for awhile. When you could smell the fragrance of star aniste, place the dumplings into the water. Lower to medium heat and let it cook slowly. I used 2 pots to fit in all my 47pcs dumplings. Just nice. Let it cook for 2.5hours or upto 3 hours if your dumplings are big. Do not cook your dumpling under high heat. Dumpling leaves might end up cracked, and the rice will ooze out. It's gonna be a mess. You won't want this to happen.

Remember to always check the water level. You must ensure that the water level is always enough to cover up the dumplings. So, adding water frequently is a MUST. Don't be lazy. You won't want to eat half-cooked dumplings right? Look at the water level here. This is the right water level.

After 2.5 hours cooking. Dumplings are done. Remove from water immediately and hang it up, leave it air dry for at least 1 hour. But I have to confess that I will never have the patience to wait for 1 hour. Haha...

Ah wells...

You could see that I didn't tie my dumplings tight enough. Look at the grass strands, it's loosen up already. My mama says that my "kung-fu" is not good enough yet. Well, I agree with her totally. Need more practise.

These are all my effort. Total 47pcs. Some are really ugly. And you could tell that I'm the one who did it.

Tired. Perspiring all over. I wanna bathe!!!

But there's alot of things in the basin waiting for me to wash up. And the worst part is to see my maid husband is sitting outside enjoying his fave TV show. Urgh!

This is the one that I wrapped. The shape is flatter, and not that appealing. Follow my paternal grandma's wrapping method. It uses 3 dumpling leaves. The wrapping method is much easier and fool proof. So, it is great for 1st timer like me. Looking at the shape, I'm not proud of it. But as long as the taste is great, I don't really bother. At least for now. Haha....

The old fashioned savory rice dumpling that I don't think anybody could resist.

This is my Mama's dumpling. Uses 2 dumpling leaves only. The shape is sexy, proudly tall and nice-ass looking. The usual dumpling shape that we saw out there. This method of wrapping need abit of "kung-fu" here. My Mama insisted me to master the easy wrapping way before I learn this.

Although there's alot of shit-ass work and it's really mad tiring for doing all the washing. But I think, I will still make it next year. I'm gonna stick to this ratio and I'm gonna burnt charcoal to cook my dumplings!

My future residential area have lots of space to allow me to burnt charcoal! I'm gonna make even more delicious dumplings next year! Weeee~!!!

Stay tuned!


  1. Kekekeke.. I use 1 leaf only, I dunno how to use more than 2 leaves.
    Eh, Singapore got just yolks to sell hoh, but colour look diff leh, chicken egg yolks?
    Thanks for sharing this, now I know, ADD star anise to the boiling water for ummph!
    I'll try that the next time.

  2. Wendy, the leaf that I've got here is pathetic lah. Very small. And yes. Singapore got sell the salted egg yolk itself. Not chicken egg yolk lah!!! Aiyoh!!! Hahaha...

  3. Hi,

    Do you know where can I get the salted egg yolks? Been searching for them for quite a while!

    1. Hi Anonymous, You can go and ask eggs seller at the wet market. They don't display their salted egg yolks usually, unless it is during dumpling festival or mid-autumn festival. You have to ask :)

  4. Hi Annie,
    I find that your instructions on the rice dumplings are clear and comprehensive. Is it ok if I get your permission to share your page on my facebook page?


    1. Hi Engine, of course you can share on your facebook. Go ahead! :)

  5. Hi, just to check why do you need mung beans?

    1. Hi Ms Mao, Cantonese usually add mung beans into the rice dumpling. It taste good! :)

  6. Hi just stumbled upon your recipe! I wish to make soon but 47 dumplings is just too many for me! Can i reduce everything into half from your recipe? Outcome still same?

    1. Hi Jacqueline, of course you can half the recipe. No problem :)

  7. Going to try yr recipe, but notice that you dont fry the marinated pork. I used to fry them with onion and garlic. Will there be any difference in taste.

    1. I have no idea about frying the pork before wrapping the rice dumpling. I never try before. The intention of cooking the marinated pork INSIDE the rice dumplings is to allow the flavour of the marinated pork goes all over the rice dumpling. That's what my mom told me :)

  8. I MADE THEM THEY WERE AWESOME thank you so much for the recipe :))) but phew it is hard work! Your cooking is beautiful as always and I love reading the blog posts xxx

    1. Hi Mary T, thanks for visiting my blog. Yes! It's hard work. But it's worth every effort.

  9. Hi Annie
    Enjoy reading your blog! Tried your abacus recipe and it was a hit!

    A question on soaking the rice dumpling Leaves. If I am wrapping on sat meaning I will boil the leaf on Friday morning than leave it to cool down evening when I come back from work I dry then using a cloth and leave it and sat morning can be use is this correct sorry for this question as its my first attempt and I am working hence need to time it right. Thanks!!

  10. Hi..Annie. Love your detail explanation . Do you sook your beans overnight?