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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dumplings in a hurry and what happens when learning things by rote

Meal in a packet
I overdo the 5 spice powder but otherwise, it tastes pretty good.

I just have to get this out so soon after the last post because I am breathless from a personal discovery.

There is a Chinese song that I was taught to sing when I was in  kindergarten. It was about a little white boat and something about the blue sky. As a child, the song was repeated until all of us could sing it by heart.

I never knew the lyrics of the song.  Years on, I occasionally play the tune even though by then most of the words have faded from my memory. All I remembered of it was  a song about a little white boat.

That is, until I decided to look for the song online. 45 years on, that is. To my surprise, I discovered that it was not about any sort of  boat . It was about the crescent moon sailing in the blue sky! What a laugh; I was picturing the wrong object all these years !

It was just an innocent song but it brought to mind how I have learnt so much things by rote and lost the pleasure of understanding what they meant. Rote learning has its place but for meaningful learning, it is best reinforced by studying it in depth at a later time. 

蓝蓝的天空银河里, 有只小白船,
船上有棵桂花树, 白兔在游玩
桨儿桨儿看不见, 船上也没帆。
飘呀飘呀, 飘向西天。

Oh, and by the way, I realised that there are irregularities in the song. I would be hard pressed to see a 'rabbit' riding on a crescent moon which in turn is riding on the Milky Way in the blue (day ) sky. 

For one thing, there is 'no place' for a ‘rabbit’ on a ( waning or waxing ) crescent moon. A crescent moon is itself barely visible in the day because it sets hours before sunrise. A crescent moon and the Milky Way also do not mix, because the latter can only be viewed on a dark, moonless night. Lastly, the crescent moon is seen in the low western horizon while the Milky Way is most visible at the southern horizon.

Now back to the dumpling. 

With all the ingredients present in the raw form, I managed to make 10 dumplings in a record 2 hours, boiling included. Other than the wrapping which took me a whopping 10 years to master, everything else pertaining to cooking it is a cinch.

For those who love origami, this is the ultimate using bamboo leaves. Traditionally secured with straws, I used raffia because they do not snap easily and the choice of colors make good codes especially when you have folks who prefer different ingredients for the same batch of cooking.

Makes 10.

Ingredients :

Seasoning according to taste. Adjust to personal preferences accordingly.

Rice :
2 TBSP fried shallots
2 cups of glutinous rice, soaked for 3 hours and drained
2 TBSP of 5 spice ( 1 TBSP recommended for a milder taste )
1 TBSP dark soya sauce
pinch of salt

filling :
2 TBSP shallots
2 cups pork, cubed ( thigh meat )
1 cup winter melon, coarsely chopped ( 2 cups if you love it sweeter )
1 TBSP 5 spice  ( 1 tsp recommended for a milder taste )
3 TBSP rick dark soya sauce
pepper and salt to taste

Misc :
1 cup of parboiled chestnut
200 g red bean paste
 30-40 medium bamboo leaves, soaked and washed.
½ m long raffia strings.

Method :
To prepare the filling, heat a 1 Tbsp of oil in a wok.
Fry the shallots, pork and melon in this order until almost cooked.
Add sauce and seasoning , according to personal preference.
Set aside.

To prepare the rice, heat 1 Tbsp of canola oil.
Fry the shallots, followed by rice on low heat.
Add spice, soy sauce and salt.
Set aside.

Use bamboo leaves ( 2-3 for each dumpling ) and fold to form an open cone .

Form a letter C with your left hand and nest the leaves in the hollow of the left hand. You should have the longer end of the leaves facing the inside of the cone and you.

Scoop 1 Tbsp of rice and push it into the base of the cone

Add chestnut, red bean paste and meat in this order, 1 Tbsp of each ingredient.

Top with 1 Tbsp of rice.

Pat to compact the rice.

Use the right hand and fold the remaining part of the longer end of the leaf  over the rice towards you.

Fold down the excess leaf at the 2 sides of the cone, using the fingers as guides to shape the corners of the dumpling.

Finally, bend the tail end of the leaf to the right to completely cover the dumpling.                                                   

Secure it with a raffia string.

When all the dumplings are done, bring a pot ( 20l pressure pot ) of water to a rolling boil.

Immerse the dumplings into the water, cover and cook under pressure for 45 minutes-55 minutes.


Best eaten fresh. To reheat, steam over a steamer.

Good even when frozen for 2 weeks.


  1. I know this song too. btw it is 桨儿桨儿 referring to the oar. I think this song is based on the story that there is a rabbit, a tree in the moon ;)
    and there is a second part to it:

    I think I have very good memory, lol!!!

    Your post brought so much fond memories! I remember those were the days when my mother would boil the dumplings using a huge recycled oil tin over a charcoal stove for at least 4 hrs, the smell from the leaves was priceless. I used to help her wash the leaves one by one, cut the raffia string, fold the leaves to form 'cups' before passing it to her, count the number of dumplings tied to the bunch, and helped myself with the fillings whenever she wasn't looking. I tried my hands at wrapping too, but she had to reject most of them, haha!

  2. Replies
    1. Read your comment you left at PH Bakes, **hugs** and jia you!

    2. All is well, thank you! Let's jia you together.

  3. I don't know much about Chinese songs and you sound very excited about this one! I only know those English songs at the kindy like Row Row Your Boat...hah...hah....Your dumplings are so well wrapped! I tried once and everything fell apart. After that I gave up hah,,,hah,,,

    1. LOL! Based on the songs, I think I am much older than you. 'Row your boat ' was for the younger kids...

  4. Ha I know this song. Used to sing it very often.

    I was just thinking whether I am up to it to make dumpling this year. I had done nonya version last year and am thinking about a hokkien version that uses meat and savoury. My hubby prefers that. Now looking at yours, I am super tempted. BTW, by adding winter melon, will yours be sweet? coz it looks easy to put together.

    1. The sweet melons give crunch in the savory backdrop of meat and spices. Eye rolling good. Love it sweet? Then dump all all. If you prefer moderation, just a handful is pretty good too.