GEORGE TOWN, June 17 — In many traditional ethnic Chinese households, every year, during the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, bak chang would be eaten to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.
The festival, which falls on June 18 this year, is also known as Duan Wu Jie and those fist-sized bundles of boiled glutinous rice dumplings are simply a must-have.
Though most households have stopped making these savoury treats, bak chang is not just abundantly available during the festival but also all year round at some places in Penang.
The Lor family who owns the Cintra Food Corner has been selling a variety of bak chang since Lor Hong En came to Penang back in 1938.
Hong En, who learned to make bak chang from his father, Lor Guang Tai, in Dongguan, China, set up a roadside stall along the corner of Cintra Street and Campbell Street.
He had helped out at his father’s bak chang business in Dongguan and when he came to the then Malaya, decided to sell bak chang here too.
He brought with him the recipes to make Cantonese zhong, Hokkien bak chang, the large giant zhong, ang thau thng or hong tau sar (red bean soup) and Cantonese-style or kueh (yam cake).
Zhong is the Cantonese name for the rice dumplings while bak chang is the Hokkien equivalent.
“The recipes are from my great grandfather and it was handed down to my grandfather, then my father and now me,” said Lor Kah Fai, 40.
Kah Fai’s father, Lor Kam On, took over the stall back in the 1970s and was manning the stall alone until Kah Fai started helping him out in 2000.
They had by then shifted to a shophouse along Cintra Street so Kah Fai named the shop Cintra Food Corner but in April, they relocated to new premises along Weld Quay.
Now, Kah Fai manages the business and the types of bak chang available have expanded to include Nyonya bak chang, Hakka bak chang and special abalone and scallop bak chang.
Each type of bak chang has different ingredients according to the different cultures of the different sub-ethnic groups.
Kah Fai said the most common bak chang is the Hokkien one where the glutinous rice is fried with dark soy sauce first before it is wrapped with pork, chestnut, mushrooms and salted egg yolks and then boiled. This results in a darker brown sticky glutinous rice mixture when cooked.
The Cantonese zhong is prepared differently as the glutinous rice is wrapped with green beans and pork before it is boiled so it results in a pale dumpling that falls apart when you dig into it.
“The Hakka bak chang is like the Cantonese one but it has black-eyed peas instead of green beans so it has a different flavour,” he explained.
Kah Fai said he learned to make the local Nyonya bak chang which is blue in colour and uses spices, peanuts and winter melon.
“I used blue pea flower for the blue colouring, just like how it was traditionally prepared by the Nyonyas but I often get complaints from customers who thought I used artificial colouring so I stopped using the blue pea flower… it is now the same pale
colour as the Hakka and Cantonese bak chang,” he said.
The shop also sells 2-kilo giant dumplings which used to be made by poor families in China so that they can share the bak chang as a meal together.
“The giant dumplings contain a lot of ingredients including green beans, mushrooms, salted egg yolks, duck meat, roasted pork and pork belly,” he said.
Other than bak chang, the shop continues to sell traditional ang tau thng and Cantonese or kueh made according to recipes handed down from Hong En.
Cintra Food Corner also has a van that sells its bak chang at night markets on Mondays (Macallum Night Market), Wednesdays (Farlim night market) and Fridays (Perak Road Night Market).
Cintra Food Corner,
56J, Weld Quay,
George Town, Penang.
Closed on Tuesdays