KitchenTigress: Kee Chang (Alkaline Dumplings)

Kee Chang (Alkaline Dumplings)

Rice wrapped in bamboo leaves are a specialty of the Dumpling Festival. These rice dumplings (粽) are made with various ingredients, in various shapes and sizes.

Kee chang are rice dumplings made with alkaline glutinous rice. The rice is alkalinized with lye water.

Kee chang may have a sweet filling like red bean paste. Plain ones without filling are usually eaten dipped in sugar. In Singapore, kaya (click here for my recipe) is also a popular dip for kee chang.

The annual Dumpling Festival is in honour of patriot 屈原 from 1,800 years ago in China. It started when people dumped dumplings into the river where he had drowned, to distract fish, dragons and whatnots from eating his body.

The dumpling event falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. It's also called Dragon Boat Festival because dragon boat racing is one of the festival's highlights.

I guess rowing is a good way to burn off the calories from rice dumplings?

How to make kee chang

Step-by-step guide

I learnt how to make kee chang by watching my mother. She made them once a year for the annual dumpling festival. I had lots of fun helping her. She always checked my dumplings to make sure they were tied tightly. Loose dumplings would fall apart or turn soggy when they're boiled.

kee chang
(For 20-25 pieces)
  • 20-25 bamboo leaves, depending on size – check that leaves aren't broken or have holes; soak overnight in water, weighed down with something heavy; wipe clean with wet cloth; rinse thoroughly and drain
  • 20-25 dumpling strings or plastic raffia, each about 90 cm long – if using dumpling strings, discard thin ones that may break (test by pulling); thick ones may be split into 2; soak together with bamboo leaves; rinse till water runs clear and wring dry; tie to a pole with a slip knot
  • 500 g glutinous rice – rinse till water runs clear, add enough water to cover by 5 cm, leave to soak overnight, drain thoroughly
  • 15 g orange-tinted lye – break into small pieces, add 2 tbsp hot water, stir till dissolved, add to drained glutinous rice, mix evenly

  1. Use only bamboo leaves that aren't torn or have holes. Soak overnight in water, weighed down with something heavy. Clean with wet cloth. Rinse thoroughly. Drain.

  2. If using dumpling strings, discard thin ones that may break (test by pulling). Thick ones may be split into 2. Soak strings with bamboo leaves. Rinse till water runs clear. Wring dry.

  3. Rinse glutinous rice till water runs clear. Add enough water to cover by 5 cm. Leave to soak overnight. Drain thoroughly.

  4. Break lye into small pieces. Add hot water. Stir till dissolved. Add to drained glutinous rice. Mix thoroughly.

  5. Rest pole horizontally on back of two chairs or, say, kitchen cabinets and a table. Pole should be secure and not roll about when dumplings are being tied. You also need a low stool to sit on.

  6. Tie dumpling/raffia strings to pole with slip knot.

  7. Wrap and tie dumplings as shown in video (1:18 - 2:27).
  8. Boil dumplings in enough water to cover, for 2.5-3 hours depending on size.

  9. To see if dumplings are done, unwrap one and check if inside is soft. If it's hard, or bitter, boil for another 15-30 minutes.

  10. Remove dumplings from water. Leave till cool. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

  11. To serve, unwrap dumplings. Cut bite-size. Eat with castor sugar or kaya dip.