With the Dragon Boat Festival around the corner, Young Post's junior reporters discovered what it takes to make their own rice dumplings to celebrate and commemorate the Chinese hero Qu Yuan.
The lucky group attended a workshop at the Super Star Restaurant in Wan Chai two weeks ago. It was the first time any of them had made rice dumplings, and most of them were surprised at how much effort it takes.
For example, restaurant staff made tying the leaves into a 'jacket' with straw seem easy, but the junior reporters found it far more difficult than it looked.
'I had a slight idea but didn't know the entire procedure. Now I know how difficult it is, and that practice really makes perfect. Those ladies made one in less than a minute. I spent more than five minutes and still couldn't get it right,' Emily Tsang said.
Sneha Singh, Emily's rice dumpling pal echoed her thoughts.
'Emily and I couldn't figure out how to wrap them and our dumplings kept falling apart. But when the chef came to help us, he did it really quickly.'
Fellow first-timer Phoebe Ho was equally surprised: 'The process was quite challenging, even though it just looks like a bundle of leaves wrapped together.'
The workshop was conducted by chef Kelvin Pang Chi-nam of Super Star. The reporters dealt with ingredients such as glutinous rice, green beans, pork, dried scallops, bamboo leaves and straw to tie the leaves together. From preparing the raw rice dumpling to boiling to serving takes almost five hours.
Janet Tam, a green bean lover, added piles of the legumes to her dumplings to her parents' surprise.
'I made four rice dumplings, and my parents said the dumplings had the largest amount of green beans they'd ever seen but were quite tasty,' she said.
Arjun Sivakumar, a vegetarian, who stuffed his dumplings with unmarinated green beans, said he does not like rice dumplings because he finds them tasteless. But he said making his own was fun.
'It was challenging and at the same time fun. I'd never even thought about how complicated it was to make them,' he said. 'The most amusing part of this workshop was wrapping the dumplings. I found it the most fun.'
Arjun made five rice dumplings at the workshop and tried one at home after.
'It wasn't very good because it was overcooked,' he said, adding that he will continue to practise until he gets it right.
Most of the participants who enjoy rice dumplings prefer the savoury kind, like Justin So, who said his favourite filling was dried scallops.
It was also Justin's first time to have a crack at making them because his grandparents on the mainland usually do it for him.
'I made six, and my parents loved them,' he said.
The workshop experience
With the Dragon Boat festival just around the corner, Young Post's junior reporters made their first ventures into Chinese cooking by learning to prepare rice dumplings for this special day. Here are the best five reflections of their experiences.
The rice dumpling cooking class at the Super Star Seafood Restaurant was amazing. I felt excited at first, when the class started. But then I saw how difficult it was to make just one rice dumpling.
Then after practising by making two rice dumplings, I became more confident with the techniques involved. such as wrapping and tying. I was able to make them correctly - to a certain extent.
The cooking class was awesome and the restaurant staff were very friendly and helpful.
Making rice dumplings is a tradition to commemorate a Chinese hero. It is my favourite food because it is sticky and the presentation is quite amazing, especially the salty ones.
This was my first time making rice dumplings. My family usually buys them from the shops because it is quite troublesome to get the fresh ingredients and wrap them nicely.
However, the wrapping was the most amusing part. We used just our hands and leaves to make a triangular shape. I did not know anything about making rice dumplings before coming to this workshop. I was surprised that just a tiny dumpling requires so many fresh ingredients.
Appearances can be deceptive. I made three but it took a lot of work. It was interesting and taught me more about Chinese culture.
This was my first experience making rice dumplings and I really enjoyed it. After the workshop, I discovered that making an excellent rice dumpling takes a lot of skill and technique.
The most challenging part for me was to fold the bamboo leaves to form a pyramid-shaped pudding. Sometimes I could not fold it well and the ingredients leaked.
Chef Kelvin Pang was our teacher and he explained the steps to us very clearly and patiently. I am really glad to have taken part in such an interesting workshop organised by Young Post. I'll be sure to make more rice dumplings at home again and share them with my family members.
Rice dumplings are a very important part of Chinese culture. So I joined Young Post's rice dumpling workshop.
It was a great experience and I made five dumplings. The best part was when we were allowed to choose our own ingredients for our dumpling.
I chose to put in some ham because I love ham but after boiling the dumplings for a couple of hours, strangely, all the ham disappeared.
Overall I quite enjoyed the workshop and will continue making them at home for the Dragon Boat festival. I like the salty rice dumplings. What do you like? Salty or sweet?
After the dumpling workshop, I was really excited to try out the rice dumplings that I made. The process of making them was memorable because it is the first time I have seen the ingredients before they are wrapped into the leaf packaging.
Also, I did not know that rice dumplings need to be boiled for four to five hours because the ones from the stores only take a few minutes to prepare.
Like most festivals, the traditional food and celebrations have been simplified to suit our daily lives; a lot of young people from this generation have not tried making rice dumplings.
Sooner or later, this art will be lost. It is not something that should not be replaced by machines as it should be an art that is passed on from generation to generation.