What Your Fave Bak Chang Says About You + Recipes!
STORY: Pearlyn Tham
24 June 2020
These days, as with almost everything, your humble good ol’ rice dumpling can become hipster or luxe, depending on what restaurants and eateries put in theirs to score likes on social media.
We’ve seen quinoa rice and cauliflower rice versions, mala recipes, super elevated lobster and truffle editions, and even bak chang burgers – and we’re still wondering when Swensen’s or Haagen Daz will create an ice cream dumpling.
But for now, here are the OGs.
1. Hokkien bak chang
What it is: If you have never eaten this, then you probably have never eaten any bak chang. This is like the bread and butter of the bak chang world and is stuffed with marinated pork belly, dried mushrooms and shrimps, and chestnuts. The glutinous rice part is made with dark sauce and five spice powder.
If you love it: You enjoy the simple pleasures in everyday life, like seeing if the nasi padang stall has your favourite chicken rendang today and claiming your PassionCard points at Giant.
2. Cantonese bak chang
What it is: It has everything that its Hokkien counterpart has and more… think Chinese preserved sausages, dried scallops, green beans and the all-important salted eggs. It’s no wonder that sometimes this isn’t shaped like the usual for-one-pax pyramid but comes in a larger, family-size oblong rice parcel.
If you love it: Sophisticated and ambitious, you became the towkay of your own e-commerce start-up at 18.
3. Teochew bak chang
What it is: It also has everything that the Hokkien rice dumplings have but sink your teeth deep deep into a Teochew bak chang and your tastebuds will find a ball of sweet red bean paste.
If you love it: You live for surprise parties, Secret Santa and anonymous cupcake deliveries that let you post “Ok, who sent this!” on Instagram Stories.
4. Hainanese bak chang
What it is: You’ll find the usual suspects like pork belly, chestnuts and mushrooms in this but traditionally, Hainanese rice dumplings are said to use bigger pieces of every ingredient. In some cases, the bak chang itself is larger than the norm.
If you love it: Diet is a vulgar four-letter word to you.
5. Nyonya bak chang
What it is: Unlike most other bak chang, this one is a sweet-savoury hybrid because it is packed with both minced pork and candied winter melon. The glutinous rice portion is also dyed with blue pea flower.
If you love it: Others may call you indecisive but you just like having options in life. Your favourite activity is standing between the MRT station and the taxi stand, and wondering if you should take the train, hail a cab, get a private hire car or not go home at all.
6. Kee chang
What it is: Also (unappetisingly) known as alkaline dumplings, kee chang get their signature yellow hue from lye water. Eat them plain, or dipped in sugar or gula melaka syrup, which makes them a very carb-heavy dessert.
If you love it: You are individualistic and get excited when you see the phrase “all-day breakfast” on menus. Because who said you shouldn’t have pancakes and scrambled eggs at 6pm?
7. Sio bak chang
What it is: While kantang people sing songs with food words in the titles like "Lady Marmalade" and "American Pie", Teresa Teng fans sing about piping hot rice dumplings – which is what this song is about. Until lyricstranslate.com tells us it has quite cham vibes. The lyrics are also spookily relevant to some of our lives in this Covid-19 sitch now.
Grieve and sigh about my cruel fate.
In fact, my parents really loved me,
Sent me to school for many years.
Yet after graduation no job was in the market.
Temporarily, I decide to sell rice dumplings.
Rice dumplings, rice dumplings, selling rice dumplings.
If you love it: You or your folks probably have a vast archive of Teresa Teng, Tsai Chin and Su Rui laser discs at home that nobody can bear to sell to the karang guni man.