Kee Chang (碱水粽)

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Song Dynasty some 1,000 years ago was one of the golden eras of Chinese poetry. The more famous poets like 蘇東坡 and 李後主 are still household names now, more or less.

And then there's the whole bunch of guys from the Tang Dynasty, such as 李白 and 白居易, whose poems have been around for about 1,200 years. That's an awfully long time but it's nothing compared to 曹操 and 曹丕 who have clocked in almost 1,800 years

I can recite off the top of my head one of 曹丕's poems from 1,800 years ago:


I hope you're impressed.

WHAT? Your primary school kid can recite the same poem? Oh, bloody 'ell.

Was there any poet before 曹丕? Of course there was, and it was none other than 屈原. He was China's first recorded poet, from 2,300 years ago.

Everyone, or just about, knows the "dumpling festival" is in honour of 屈原 and how it all started with people dumping dumplings into the river where he had drowned, to distract the fish, dragons and whatnots from eating his body. That story has been repeated to death, so let me tell you something more interesting:

🌈 屈原was homosexual. Yup, he was GAY. How do we know that? Because the lover he referred to in his poems was a man.

🌈 Who was 屈原's lover? His BOSS, 楚怀王. Gee, 楚怀王 was gay too? Um, no. He was, ahem, BISEXUAL.

🌈 屈原 is often hailed as a patriot who committed suicide because his country, 楚国, was swallowed by 秦国. But he had been fired by his king-cum-lover, 楚怀王, and had been in exile for 20 years when 楚国 was defeated. Given the circumstances, it was highly unlikely he killed himself because he was mourning the death of his country. A more plausible explanation: he was mourning the death of the man he loved, who had been killed by 秦国.

🌈 In 1999, the gay fraternity in Hong Kong celebrated 同志日 – gay day, if you will – on the same day as 端午节 because, they said, 屈原 was one of them.

Well, now you know. Happy 端午节, everyone. Enjoy your dumplings and have a gay celebration.

Related articles: (in Chinese)

(Recipe 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, broken into small pieces
add 2 tbsp hot water and stir till dissolved; add to drained glutinous rice and mix evenly

Prepare ingredients as detailed above. 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.

Wrap and tie dumplings as shown in the video (1:18 - 2:27). Boil in enough water to cover. Duration: 3 hours if you have 20 pieces; 2½ hours if you have 25 smaller ones.

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

Remove dumplings from the water. Leave till cool. Cut into bite-sized pieces with sewing thread – scissors aren't as fun! – and eat with fine-grained white sugar, light or dark brown sugar, palm sugar syrup or kaya. Leftovers may be kept without refrigeration for several days without spoiling.

Click here for my kaya recipe which takes only 10 minutes or so from start to finish.

If you prefer palm sugar syrup, here's how you make it: boil 1 part sugar to 2 parts palm sugar with some water and a few pandan leaves till thick and pandan fragrance is released.


Bijin05 said...

I am a silent reader of your blog. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the videos with the recipe. Makes life easier. Thank you.

Genevieve Ngui said...

I love kee Chang though I wont attempt to do it even in my imagination KT=)

KT said...

Since the ingredients and method are so simple, I don't think there's much difference between homemade and bought kee chang. I made some only because I wanted to practise the wrapping part, which is veryand hopefully make some bak chang which are more difficult to wrap 'cause they're bigger.

KT said...

You're welcome, Bijin05. Thanks for your feedback.

Eng Chin said...

You're food goddess! I'm thankful for your teaching. It's so interesting about 屈原too. My son Chinese textbook is learning about him. It'll add on to his learning although I'm not sure if its age appropriate haha. Hopefully, I'll try this soon. My son loves to eat Kee Chang.

giok sian said...

where to buy orange-tinted lye ?

Kitchen Piglet said...

Gotta love that 'king cum lover'.

PM said...

Can I know what's the purpose of "lye" ? What's the difference if I don't use this? Not very sure where I can source this in Melbourne....

Mary said...

Do we soak the rice with the lye water overnight or do we add it to the rice AFTER it's been soaked overnight?

HTE said...

Hi, I'm assuming you are referring to Melbourne in Australia. I bought a bottle of lye water from the Asian grocery store. I think most should have it, but I went to the one inside box hill central if that helps. It's use should be the same as the solution Tigress made. I'd probably go for a tablespoon of lye water mixed in the rice. Before you try without the lye, try with first. At least that way you would know what you are missing out on =P
Also, good work KT, I always enjoy your posts!

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