Folk Food – Malaysian

Folk food – Malaysia

“Zongzi, a kind of stuffed glutinous rice dumpling, is a traditional Chinese dish that is eaten in honor of a poet, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in a river, due to his failure to warn the king about the invasion of one of their neighboring kingdoms. People used to throw the dumpling into the river to stop fish from eating his body. But nowadays, people just eat the dumplings instead of throwing it into the river.”

When questioned about Chinese traditions that interested him Fung Wei was quick to mention this particular custom. He first ate the dumplings at a young age, and was unaware of their significance until his parents taught it to him. Since it isn’t possible to throw dumplings into the river, which after some research I found out was the Miluo river, if persons don’t live in the area, it is custom to eat it on the fateful day.

The death anniversary of the poet also correlates with the Dragon boat Fetival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the Chinese calendar, which is in June. Fung explains that due to this correlation people have not forgotten about Qu Yuan, and while he feels the custom of throwing the dumplings in the river are outdated and somewhat meaningless in its purpose, the remembrance of the poet is an honorable activity. However, he also hinted that the only reason he knew the custom was because his parent’s Zongzi was extremely tasty, more so because he could consume it just once a year.

Fung stressed that the preparation of Zongzi required a lot of effort and skill. While the dumplings he ate were pyramidal in shape he also mentioned that they could be cylindrical. Families often pass down recipes and wrapping techniques although as of yet, Fung has not learnt it from his parents. However, he has partaken in its preparation and while there are variations in ingredients used, his family use barbeque pork and salted eggs as a filling. He mentioned that “It is not uncommon to see certain variations use dried shrimps, beans or curry chicken as a filling.”

While I have never consumed this particular form of dumpling and never heard of Qu Yuan, I feel that his remembrance is important, and the use of Zongzi would most likely ensure the survival of the memory of Qu Yuan and the tradition for generations to come.