Some like them sweet, while others like them savoury. And of course, there are fickle foodies among us who are torn between two loves. We unwrap the best of both worlds to bring you this list of savoury and sweet glutinous rice dumplings ahead of the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival. Also, find out what makes bak zhang from various dialect groups unique.
Hua Ting Restaurant at Orchard Hotel
Roast Duck with Black Truffle Rice Dumpling, $22.80+
Tradition meets luxury in this refined new creation handcrafted by Hua Ting Restaurant’s Master Chef Lap Fai and his team. Combining the rich flavours of the Signature Crispy Roasted Duck that the restaurant is known for with fragrant black truffle-infused glutinous rice, each bite is a harmonious blend of earthy truffle aromas and the robust umami of succulent duck slices.
Crystal Rice Dumpling with Custard, $18.80+
Another newcomer to the menu this year is this delectable treat, a translucent lye rice dumpling or kee zhang that encases a smooth custard filling within. The nostalgic taste of the chewy alkaline water-infused glutinous rice offers a satisfying contrast to the creamy custard, for the ideal after-dinner dessert.
SAFRA members and servicemen also enjoy 15% off a la carte dining at Hua Ting Restaurant; more info at safra.sg/promotions/hua-ting-restaurant
Orchard Hotel Singapore: 442 Orchard Road, Level 2; orchardhotel.com.sg
Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel
Hong Kong-style Dumpling with Homemade Soya Sauce, $26 nett
Handcrafted by the dim sum chefs of Cantonese and Sichuan restaurant, Min Jiang, this comforting bundle is packed with roasted pork and roasted duck, along with shiitake mushrooms, roasted chestnuts, dried scallops, mung beans and lotus seeds. Meticulously concocted in-house, an accompanying sauce adds a tinge of umami with a blend of light and dark soy, onions, spring onions, and ginger.
Steamed ‘Kee Zhang’ with D24 Durian Dip, $12 nett
With Goodwood Park Hotel’s annual Durian Fiesta marking its 40th anniversary this year, Min Jiang offers up this sweet option that loyal subjects of the King of Fruits won’t be able to resist. The set of three petite lye dumplings are traditionally prepared with no filling, but this time, the rich D24 durian dip on the side adds a decadent twist to the nostalgic experience.
SAFRA members and servicemen also enjoy 20% off selected durian delights at The Deli; more info at safra.sg/promotions/the-deli-at-goodwood-park-hotel
Goodwood Park Hotel: 22 Scotts Road, Lobby level; goodwoodparkhotel.com
Bee Cheng Hiang
Mala Bakkwa with Peanut Rice Dumpling, $7.20
Here’s one for those who love Bee Cheng Hiang’s Mala Bakkwa. This handmade glutinous rice dumpling packs bites of barbecued pork marinated with a special blend of chilli sambal and Sichuan peppers. White pepper and peanuts add extra crunch and oomph.
Sweet Potato with Black Glutinous Rice Dumpling, $6.80
For a healthier alternative, try this vegetarian version, which showcases a combination of black and white glutinous rice. Often referred to as ‘pulut hitam’, the black glutinous rice adds a chewy texture, complete with a subtly sweet filling of creamy sweet potato.
Bee Cheng Hiang e-store and outlets islandwide
Golden Peony at Conrad Centennial Singapore
Hakka-style Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable Rice Dumpling, $26+
An exciting new addition to Golden Peony’s roster this year is a lesser-known Hakka version. If you enjoy the classic ‘mei cai kou rou’ or braised pork with preserved mustard greens dish, then this is for you. The squarish bundle also packs in yam, Chinese mushroom and garlic.
Green Tea Lotus Paste Rice Dumpling, $16+
For another refreshing flavour combination, don’t miss this lye rice dumpling courtesy of Executive Chinese Chef Ku Keung and his team. Generously stuffed with matcha-infused lotus seed paste, it’s sure to please green tea lovers.
Conrad Centennial Singapore: 2 Temasek Boulevard, Level 3; Tel: 6432 7482
Roasted Pork with Dried Shrimp and Conpoy Spicy Rice Dumpling
Paradise Group introduces a new savoury bak zhang that delivers a mildly spicy punch. Melt-in-your-mouth roasted pork belly is complemented by dried shrimp and conpoy. This umami number is exclusively available as part of the Rice Dumpling Gift Set ($68.80 for five varieties).
Gula Melaka Red Bean Paste Rice Dumpling, $6.80+
This rice dumpling features red bean paste carefully made in-house to suit Singaporeans’ penchant for not-too-sweet desserts. The glutinous rice is also infused with the distinctive caramelised and smoky undertones of gula melaka.
Selected Paradise Group restaurants islandwide
Si Chuan Dou Hua at Parkroyal on Kitchener Road
Traditional Cantonese Brown Rice Dumpling with Wagyu Beef, $20.80+
Traditionally, pork is the meat of choice when it comes to bak zhang. For a change, veteran chef Leung Wing Cheung presents a different take on the Cantonese-style rice dumpling, encasing American Wagyu beef in heart-healthy brown rice mixed with glutinous rice.
Chilled Sago Dumpling with Purple Potato, Red Bean and Lychee, $12.80+
Perfect as an after-meal treat for the senses, this chilled dessert dumpling is one even the kids will love. Sold as a set of three, each colourful pyramid contains a creamy filling of red bean and purple potato, complete with a distinctive lychee fragrance.
181 Kitchener Road, Level 3; Tel: 3138 5359
Xin Cuisine Chinese Restaurant at Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium
Abalone and Cumin Pork Rice Dumpling, $29.80 nett
Taking centrestage at Xin Cuisine this year is a nutritious delicacy made with abalone and pork spiced with cumin. Besides imparting its distinct aroma, cumin aids in digestion and boosts our immune system. The bigger-than-average serving size is also perfect for sharing.
Red Lotus Seed Paste Rice Dumpling served with Osmanthus Sauce, $13.80 nett or bundle of 6 for $62 nett
Satisfy those mooncake cravings in advance with this smooth lye dumpling that oozes creamy lotus paste with chestnut and gingko nuts. It’s best enjoyed with a drizzle of Xin’s osmanthus sauce, a golden dipping sauce with a delicate floral scent.
Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium: 317 Outram Road, Level 4; Tel: 3138 2531
What’s the difference?
In multicultural Singapore, we’re lucky to enjoy different kinds of bak zhang. These variations highlight the diverse culinary traditions of different dialect groups in Singapore. Can you tell the difference?
- Hokkien – Using glutinous rice first wok-fried with dark soy sauce and five-spice seasoning, the filling typically includes marinated pork belly, mushrooms and chestnuts. Arguably the most common version enjoyed locally, Hokkien dumplings are usually wrapped in bamboo leaves.
- Nyonya – The Peranakan speciality stands out for using butterfly pea flower to impart a blue tinge, as well as for wrapping it in fragrant pandan leaves. The finely chopped filling of pork belly and candied winter melon is seasoned with coriander powder and gula melaka.
- Cantonese – Often larger in size, Cantonese dumplings may be wrapped in bamboo and lotus leaves. They feature a mix of ingredients such as pork belly, salted egg yolk, dried scallops, mushrooms, mung beans and chestnuts, while the rice is seasoned in salt and garlic oil.
- Teochew – Known for its mix of savoury and sweet flavours, what makes the Teochew version unique is the inclusion of a ball of red bean, mung bean or lotus seed paste. Other ingredients include pork belly, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, chestnuts and lotus seeds.
- Hainanese – What sets Hainanese rice dumplings apart is the chunkier size of its ingredients. They typically contain a large slab of pork belly, as well as whole chestnuts and Chinese mushrooms, all of which are stir-fried in dark soy sauce and five-spice powder.
- Hakka – Taking inspiration from the classic Hakka dish, the Hakka rice dumpling features pork belly with preserved mustard greens. Chinese mushrooms and salted egg yolk are also commonly included, while black-eyed peas may be used in place of mung beans.
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