Chinese Rice Dumplings: Zongzi (粽子) or "Bakchang"


Is a chicken version wrapped in lotus leaf or steamed in a metal bowl and unmolded and served inverted on a plate also offered at these places?

No, the lor mai kai (Chinese: 糯米鸡) is regarded as part of a dim sum spread, and so will not be sold by a zongzi vendor.

They all look good but #1 makes me drool!

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Seems most people don’t have a problem with the texture. I had tried, countless times. It’s not them, it’s me. I’m sensitive to the texture. Same with tapioca dough pastries, balls in syrup, tapioca balls, and mochi.

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That’s specialization ! Tamale shops aren’t so focused, in spite of similar concept.

Oh yes, tamales - it is so similar to Chinese zongzi, especially the Cantonese-type with mashed mung bean-filling, that I fell in love with tamales the very first time I tasted it long, long ago. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time in Oakland, California, in my previous job as a shipping company director: 40% of my time each year, away from my home in Singapore, for years. I used to look out for a tamales food truck which comes to the Old Oakland famers’ market each Friday and buy a bunch for the weekend. I’d also go to the Mission District, where I can get Guatemalan tamales, where the texture is much, much softer than Mexican ones which I used as a benchmark. Then, you get the Peruvian ones, which are so firm to the bite.

Tamales from the All-Star Tamales food truck at the Old Oakland Farmers Market.

Guatemalan tamales from Acaxutla, Mission District:

I think Chinese food culture is pretty similar to the Japanese one in that a food purveyor will usually only concentrate on one specific product - so, if you look at Chinese hawker stalls, for example, in Singapore or Penang , you go to a hawker centre and you see a laksa stall, a fried carrot cake stall, a nasi lemak stall, etc. - similar to Japan, where you have a tempura-ya, sushi-ya, ramen-ya, etc.

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A sad day that might have escaped your attention:

Ah, thanks for the heads-up. That is sad news indeed.

My personal go-to Mexican spot in Old Oakland had always been Tamarindo. I have a soft spot for Oakland, and I always feel a dull ache in my heart whenever I hear of the loss of an old eatery there.

I am luke warm with savoury zongzi, I especially dislike the (overcooked) chestnut and the fat (usually tasteless). (I suspect that I didn’t come across good ones too.) I like it plain, or sweet one with mung beans. LOL I like better lor mai kai.

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Didn’t know they were bamboo leaves, I never saw a bamboo with leaves that big though. LOL.

Chinese zongzi’s flavours vary significantly across regions. I remembered back in 2000 when i came across a zongzi stand in Wangfuqing, Beijing’s main retail/commercial thoroughfare. I had been in Beijing for 6 weeks already at the time, and missed food back in Singapore terribly. Beijing’s zongzi, on the outside, looked exactly like the Hokkien bakchangs we have back home, so I bought one each of the 4 varieties available. I unwrapped one, took a bite, spat it out (as the taste was really awful) and threw it away. Tried the other 3, and had to throw all those away as well!! It was a valuable lesson for me - zongzi is one of my favourite Chinese snacks of all time, but I found the Beijing ones literally inedible!

Thanks for the tips, I am not that aware for that big regional variations. Good reason to try them out everywhere.

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Not kidding my tummy just growled reading this!! There used to be a street vendor in nyc chinatown who sold these, many different kinds including one vegetarian version (i’m veg) that had some combination with peanuts and chestnut and some kind of soft bean? Maybe root vegetable? The rice was plain glutinous rice, i would add a little soy sauce when eating it. Really fantastic, and unfortunately not easy to find other veg versions.

I love anything with that sticky glutinous rice as well as those steamed rice rolls, various rice flour based pastries…


Jalisco is still doing big trade in carnitas the three days of the week it opens.

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Tamarindo is still doing well.

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Ooh, great news! :heart:

Another variant of the Chinese zongzi (粽子) is the Nyonya kueh chang, indigenous to the 3 former British Straits Settlement colonies of Singapore, Malacca and Penang.

The main difference between the Nyonya rice dumpling and its Chinese counterpart is in its sweet-savoury filling, where chopped candied melon is added to the spiced pork belly, together with chopped/sauteed shallots, garlic, aniseed and coriander.

The best commercially-available Nyonya kueh chang in Singapore, and my personal favourite for over 3 decades, is from Kim Choo Kueh Chang in Katong, Singapore.

Nyonya kueh chang are usually white in colour in Singapore and Penang, as the Nyonyas do not add soysauce or dark soysauce into their rice dumplings the way the Chinese do. In Malacca, they used the natural colours from the bunga telang (clitoria ternatea) flower blooms to tinge the glutinous rice blue. The Nyonyas do not add salted eggyolk or chestnuts into their rice dumplings.

Kim Choo (East Coast Road/Katong branch)
109 / 111East Coast Road
Singapore 428801


The Cantonese rice dumpling or zong (pronounced “ch-oe-hng”) does not have the brown-hued glutinous rice characteristic of the Hokkien bakchang, who fry their uncooked rice grains in dark soysauce and 5-spice powder before wrapping and steaming. The Cantonese do not fry their glutinous rice, but instead, will season it with salt and garlic oil before the wrapping & steaming process.

The Cantonese rice dumpling filling is characterised by its use of mung beans to accompany the marinated pork belly. The Cantonese wrap their zong into long, pillow-shaped parcels, unlike the pyramidical-shaped ones favoured by the Hokkiens. Salted duck’s eggyolk is also added to the filling at times.

Usually, the zong is served with white sugar as a dip, lending the dish a sweet-savoury flavour.


I found a very good Cantonese zong vendor in Penang recently:

Mr & Mrs Ooi
18F, Pintasan Cecil Satu, 10300 Penang
Tel: +6017558 7786/+6017423 7959
Retail stall: G Town Kopitiam, corner of Burma Road & Kinta Lane


The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu (Chinese: 端午) which falls on the 5th Day of the 5th Month on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar - next Monday, June 14 on the Gregorian calendar.

As always, there’s a proliferation of pop-up stalls and online businesses offering “bakchang” at this time of the year.

I did a taste-test of two Hokkien bakchang at breakfast today - both are homemade ones: one from Van Praagh Road and the other from Island Glades.

Bakchang from Van Praagh Road (left) and Island Glades (right).

Bakchang unwrapped. Both are Hokkien bakchang. The one from Van Praagh Road (left) had a darker hue from more dark soy-sauce used to cook the glutinous rice, before wrapping.

Bakchang dissected. Both had filling consisting of cooked pork, dried Chinese mushroom, whole chestnuts, dried shrimps, and salted duck’s egg-yolk. The one from Van Praagh used pork shoulder meat, whereas the Island Glades one used pork belly. I preferred the latter as it’s moister and fattier.

The Van Praagh Rd one had very dense, sticky glutinous rice.

The Island Glades one had looser-packed glutinous rice and had black-eyed peas added. Nice.

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