Today, fifth day of the fifth lunar month (known as double-fifth) is Dumpling Day. This festival is one of the major Chinese festivals that the Chinese community celebrates in a year. It is not a relgious holiday but celebrated as a matter of tradition or custom.
Legend has it that the Dumpling festival commemorates the death of famous Chinese poet, Qu Yuan (c. 340 - 278 BC) who threw himself into the Milou River out of depression and worry for the future of his homeland.
Villagers carried their dumplings and boats to the middle of the river and desperately tried to save him, but were unsuccessful. In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles. They threw rice into the water as a food offering to Qu Yuan and to distract the fish away from his body. However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that he died because of a river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. These packages became a traditional food known as zòngzi, although the lumps of rice are now wrapped in reed leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of which is held on the anniversary of his death every year.
Today, people still eat zòngzi (dumplings) and participate in dragon boat races to commemorate Qu Yuan's sacrifice on the Duan Wu festival, the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Koreans later adopted the festival from the Chinese and called it the Dano festival.
Here in Malaysia, dumplings are a popular food item. Y ou can find them all year-round at food stalls and eateries. Over here, leaves from the bamboo plant are used to wrap the rice. The cooking process is by way of boiling the dumplings in a big pot of water. Cooking takes a few hours to ensure the glutinous rice is sufficiently cooked.
Because of the long hours of cooking, dumplings can be left in room temperature for two or three days and still remain good, after which they need to be refrigerated. Steaming them will bring back the soft, moist texture.
Happy Dumpling Day!