Bak chang festival always remind me of the times when I was either a little girl or still single and living with my mother and sister. My other sister would come to the house and my mother probably enjoyed her annual scolding of my two older sisters (in a motherly geram way) on their clumsiness. Every year, without fail. Never mind that they were probably experts already. She would say they tied too tight, they did not put enough rice, they should wet their hands first before touching all the ingredients (to avoid messing up all the rice and meats) etc etc.
(photo : Frozen kee chang I bought from Tesco)
That’s why all my life, I never bother to try making chang or the meat dumplings. I used to help my mother fried the glutinous rice and do other menial tasks like cutting the salted duck egg yolks with thread, peeling the brown shells off the chestnuts and even sorting glutinous rice from the regular rice for kee chang. But when it comes to the day to wrap the rice and meat in bamboo leaves, I will stay out of the way.
I think I can make some pretty kickass mixture of the bak chang but don’t ever ask me to tie it. I can imagine my mother ngam-ngam-cham-cham with her mother hen style. I do not tolerate people patronising me, not even my mother. So, that’s why until today, though I know how to make bak chang in theory, I never try making them. Lucky my eldest sister took over the skill and she still makes them yearly. (but *whisper mode* her chang never tastes quite as good as mother’s)
I also remember buying boric acid (pheng seh) from the Chinese medicine hall before. Long before our Health Ministry banned boric acid, Chinese used to put a tiny amount in their noodles and bak chang. My mother said it will make the rice more ‘q q’ (springy), won’t stick to the bamboo leaves and the rice shiny. Then, there was one time when a lot of children died or were serious harmed when some Kampar, Perak lou shee farn (a type of noodle) manufacturer used too much of it. Today, CAP claimed that boric acid is still being used in samples of bak changs they tested recently. Looks like Chinese never learn and never will. Boric acid was sold in tiny amount in white powder form.
Bak Chang has evolved so much today. The other day, I saw a restaurant selling bak chang that costs RM238 per piece. It contains abalone. Not wanting to sound like a sour grape, me thinks that is a sin of gluttony. RM238 for ONE bak chang?
What I miss now is my kampung neighbour’s Hokkien Nyonya chang that is steamed instead of boiled. It is made of tiny pieces of lard, wintermelon, cekur root, ketumbar, meat, peanuts….Waahhh….who has that chang? The old lady died and probably no one learnt the recipe from her.
So, happy Bak Chang pigging out day. The actual date is tomorrow.