Lotus dumplings for the fifth of the fifth

It's the fifth day of the fifth lunar month this week and Vietnamese families are preparing homemade goodies to detox in the traditional way.

Lotus dumplings for the fifth of the fifth
Cantonese bak chang must be wrapped in bamboo leaves. Photo courtesy of SaoStar.vn

Đoan Ngọ Tết, or getting rid of germs from inside your digestive system, is a custom at this time of year. This Thursday is the big day and the temperature has been forecast to soar close to 40 degrees Celcius, so the traditional meal of fermented sticky rice may be tough to scarf down. 

Good thing that tradition has it that the rice is followed by fruit such as plums, litchis, or pineapples, all considered hot fruit to clear germs from your system.

Also celebrating at this time of year is the Chinese community in Vietnam. Nearly half a million people of Chinese descent call District 5 in HCM City home. Chinese people living in Vietnam tend to be descendants of people from Guangdong, Chaozhou, Fujian and Hainan provinces. They speak Cantonese and maintain strong cultural and culinary traditions. 

For Đoan Ngọ Tết, Chinese residents in HCM City make traditional bá trạng dumplings, known also as the Cantonese bak chang meat dumplings. 

Lotus dumplings for the fifth of the fifth
It takes a long time to get all the ingredients ready to make the dumplings. VNS Photo My Ha

While in Red River Delta provinces, Vietnamese mothers make the sticky rice ash dumplings for the occasion, which have no meat and are served cold with sugarcane molasses. 

Some people may find that the bak chang dumplings are quite similar to Vietnamese Lunar New Year square cakes. Both use leaves to wrap sticky rice with meat and nut stuffing inside. They are only different in shapes and flavours. While the square bánh chưng has three main ingredients, bak chang have more than that.

Bak chang dumplings need to be boiled in water for two and a half hours, whereas bánh chưng need to be boiled between 10 and 12 hours to make the ingredients completely melt, then they are pressed with stone to remove all the water that soaked into them. 

In Vietnam, bak chang dumplings are more popular in the south, where the Chinese community is much bigger. Many Hanoians say they have never heard of this kind of dumpling. 

Traditional Cantonese bak chang features glutinous rice stir-fried with dark soya sauce, five-spice powder pork, marinated egg yolk and thick shiitake mushrooms. The flavour is typical Cantonese with soya sauce and dark sauce sauteed in the rice, meat and mushrooms. While sticky rice is a must, stuffing variations include chestnut and pork, chestnut, pork and mushrooms and salted egg yolks.

The Canton region is also home to sea-faring traditions and they also add seafood to the dumplings. The ingredients can include dried shrimps, scallops and oysters, stir-fried in oyster sauce. 

The true Cantonese bak chang dumplings must be wrapped in big dried bamboo leaves, which are not harvested for food in the north of Vietnam. The dried leaves must be boiled, washed and dried with a towel before wrapping.   

 

In HCM City, you will also find bak chang sold in banana leaves. Some say that it's the Chinese tradition married into the Vietnamese family. The ingredients can be the same, but when the leaves are not the same, the wrapping and size of dumplings vary as well. 

With bamboo leaves, you can make triangle dumplings, that look just like their ash dumpling sisters, whereas banana bak chang dumplings are wrapped into square buns.  

Houses selling bak chang dumplings in HMC City also have their own version of stuffing. Some add mung beans, lotus seeds and peanuts. Some add lạp xường (pork sausages Chinese style), and last but not least, the salted egg yolks as the centrepiece of the dumplings. The yolks combine and enhance all the flavours to the next level. 

At Chinese dim sum restaurants, you can also have a shortened version of bak chang with sauteed chicken and fragrant mushrooms.

Lotus dumplings for the fifth of the fifth
Traditional Tet Đoan Ngọ food in the north comprises of the ash dumplings with sugarcane molasses, fermented black and white rice and assorted fruit. Photo courtesy of Thể thao Văn hóa magazine

This year, the Đoan Ngọ Tết has been delayed further, which coincides with the lotus blooming season in the north of Vietnam. If you travel further from the cities, you'll find swamps with the lotus in full bloom and ripening rice fields mixed with lotus ponds. 

In Hanoi's West Lake, the few hundred-petal lotuses are in bloom, and ladies wake up early in the morning to get the first sunlight to pose for photos by the lotus pond. 

The atmosphere in the early morning on a lotus pond is refreshing, beautiful and fragrant. After taking a walk and finding a quiet corner to sip lotus tea on a morning like that, I was inspired to try to wrap my version of the bak chang with lotus leaves. Hanoian sticky rice sellers also use fresh lotus leaves to wrap sticky rice to sell at about 6.30am for the early birds for work or school.

I also made a change in the stuffing, replacing chestnuts with lotus seeds. So my dumplings cannot be called bak chang dumplings anymore. I call them lotus dumplings, steamed instead of boiled in water. This time of year always reminds me of my Grandma, so I offered them to her on the altar, and I believe somewhere up there between the white clouds, she is looking down on me with a smile!   VNS

Nguyen My Ha

Banh rom dumpling a northern speciality

Banh rom dumpling a northern speciality

Tasty and delicious bánh rợm or bánh nếp (sticky rice dumpling) is a popular traditional cake made by locals in Vietnam’s northern region.

H’Mong round sticky rice cakes in northwest Vietnam

H’Mong round sticky rice cakes in northwest Vietnam

Giay (round sticky rice) cakes have long been an indispensable part of H’Mong cuisine in Vietnam’s northwestern region.

 
 

Other News

.
Vietnam's tourism requires co-operation from all stakeholders to recover
Vietnam's tourism requires co-operation from all stakeholders to recover
TRAVELicon  16/07/2020 

Localities and all links in the tourism value chain need to join hands to boost domestic tourism, which is now a priority for the struggling industry’s recovery post-pandemic, tourism experts have said.

VN Transport Ministry proposes reopening international flights in August
VN Transport Ministry proposes reopening international flights in August
TRAVELicon  16/07/2020 

The Ministry of Transport has proposed the Prime Minister allow the resumption of commercial flights between Vietnam and certain other countries in August.

International flights could resume in early August
International flights could resume in early August
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

The Ministry of Transport has proposed to the Prime Minister that international flights to priority areas could begin to operate from early August.

Bougain villea blossoms brighten up Nha Trang city
Bougain villea blossoms brighten up Nha Trang city
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

Bach Thai Buoi Street on the banks of the Quan Truong River in Nha Trang city has become a popular tourist destination thanks to the vibrant colours of its Giấy blossoms, which give the city a new look during summer.

Vietnam Railway launches app to sell tickets
Vietnam Railway launches app to sell tickets
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

The Vietnam Railways Corporation (VNR) officially launched an application to buy train tickets and pay online on smartphones from July 15 to improve customer services.

VN tourism industry warned of labor shortage after COVID-19
VN tourism industry warned of labor shortage after COVID-19
TRAVELicon  16/07/2020 

The massive departure of workers in the industry in the last five months has caused problems for business executives, who will have to find qualified workers in the post-pandemic period.

Bo nhung dam, a must-try dish in Hanoi
Bo nhung dam, a must-try dish in Hanoi
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

Hanoi is home to hundreds of delicious dishes and prominent among them is bo nhung dam (beef dipping in vinegar hotpot).

Reverie Saigon named among leading hotels in the world
Reverie Saigon named among leading hotels in the world
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

New York-based travel magazine Travel + Leisure has placed Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City among its list of the world’s top 100 hotels for the year.

Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls honoured by foreign media outlets
Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls honoured by foreign media outlets
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

Aside from being home to distinct and delicious dishes such as Pho and Banh Mi, the nation’s Goi Cuon, also known as fresh spring rolls, also proves to be one of the most popular foods among travelers to Vietnam.

Ầu Ơ Kitchen - A journey to the countryside
Ầu Ơ Kitchen - A journey to the countryside
TRAVELicon  16/07/2020 

We had a special dinner date at Ầu Ơ Kitchen, at the suggestion of a friend because it’s in downtown Hanoi. We trusted her taste, not just in a culinary sense but also her choice of setting, and above all the first-class service.

Vietnameses food: Crab soup with black eggs
Vietnameses food: Crab soup with black eggs
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

Black eggs are eggs preserved in clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls, giving them a black colour and jelly-like texture. 

Vietnamese people to travel confidently domestically: Google
Vietnamese people to travel confidently domestically: Google
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

Travelers in Vietnam are expressing interest in future domestic travel, because the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way people will approach travel-related decision-making, according to the latest study by Google.

PM Phuc agrees to reopen air transportation links with China
PM Phuc agrees to reopen air transportation links with China
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc has agreed to reopen air transport activities between Vietnam and China during a recent cabinet meeting to discuss plans regarding novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention and control measures.

Vietnam Airlines continues expansion of domestic flight network
Vietnam Airlines continues expansion of domestic flight network
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

Vietnam Airlines will continue expanding its domestic flight network with July 22 seeing the addition of four air routes connecting different regions nationwide in order to facilitate greater travel demand among local passengers.

Local visitors a potential saviour for Sam Son
Local visitors a potential saviour for Sam Son
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

It’s a sunny mid-summer’s day at what is probably Vietnam’s largest public beach, Sam Son in Thanh Hoa Province, a drive of three hours or so south from Hanoi along National Highway 1

Tourism crisis may peak soon
Tourism crisis may peak soon
TRAVELicon  15/07/2020 

The tourism industry has lost 50 percent of number of travelers in the last five months, but bigger difficulties are still ahead.

Century-old craft village specialises in Buddha statues in HCM City
Century-old craft village specialises in Buddha statues in HCM City
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

An old craft village situated in a small alley in Ward 12 of District 6 in Ho Chi Minh City is renowned locally for making a variety of Buddha statues, with the area developing into a tourist attraction over the past few decades.

A rustic fishing village in Phu Yen
A rustic fishing village in Phu Yen
TRAVELicon  14/07/2020 

On the bank of a small river lined with coconut trees and bamboo clusters in the coastal province of Phu Yen, My Quang Nam Fishing Village may offer days of peace and seclusion

Hue to open Dong Ba night market
Hue to open Dong Ba night market
TRAVELicon  13/07/2020 

More than 4,000sq.m at the bus station next to Dong Ba market, a renowned market in the central city of Hue, will be used to set up a night market aimed at renovating the age-old market and creating a new tourist attraction.

Danang offers promotional packages for tourists
Danang offers promotional packages for tourists
TRAVELicon  13/07/2020 

To attract domestic tourists, the Danang tourism industry in collaboration with Vinpearl hotels and other tourism facilities will offer various promotional packages, stated Cao Tri Dung, Chairman of the Danang Tourism Association.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN