Each year, the fifth day of the fifth lunar month marks the occasion of the Dragon Boat Festival, a Chinese festival dating back to around 450BCE. This year, the festival falls on 14 June, but as it takes place one day after Singapore’s Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period from 16 May to 13 June, celebratory gatherings such as dragon boat races and family reunions will be muted.
However, MICHELIN-recommended restaurants and hotels have not been resting on their laurels, and have come up with ever-innovative takes on the beloved festival food of zongzi, or rice dumpling, for takeaway and delivery. Traditionally, the most popular bak zhang are stuffed with pork, water chestnuts and mushrooms, while the Peranakan version is darker with soy sauce braised pork and five spice powder. There are also dessert versions called kee chang, eaten with a sweet syrup.
Here’s how chefs have given their own spins on these traditional forms, with uncommon shapes, flavours and ingredients to pique your palates at home.
Truffle and morels: Summer Palace (1 MICHELIN Star)
Vegetarians will be pleased to find an inventive Five Treasures ($26) vegetarian version by executive Chinese chef Liu Ching Hai and team. The fragrant dumpling features steamed morel mushrooms, lotus seeds, oats, barley, sweet corn and green beans in truffle scented glutinous rice. For a change of pace, the Red Date Paste Dumpling in bamboo leaf ($15) is accompanied by Osmanthus honey for an aromatic, floral interlude.
Mala, black garlic: Man Fu Yuan (MICHELIN Plate 2019)
Crafted to look like a bulb of garlic, or a money bag, is the unconventional Smoked Duroc Pork Char Siew Dumpling with Black Gold Garlic ($12). The shape debuted last year as a duck and black garlic version and was quickly sold out. Executive Chinese chef Aaron Tan uses the restaurant’s signature Duroc pork char siew to create this year’s sweet and earthy version. He explains, “The rice and fillings are first wrapped in bamboo leaves, then in lotus leaf for the circular shape. The use of two different leaves imbues the dumpling with added earthy aromas.”
Not to be overshadowed are the new Mala-braised Beef Brisket Dumpling ($15) with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, coriander and mala spices for a tingle; and gift sets bundled with a limited carrier bag and Chinese tea or Taittinger Champagne.
31 May to 14 Jun. Orders online before 1 Jun enjoy 20% early bird savings. Delivery is $25 to one location. Order 3 days in advance.
Applewood smoked: Shang Palace (MICHELIN Plate 2019)
A deft layering of 10 Asian and Western ingredients abound in the limited edition Applewood-smoked Rice Dumpling with Abalone, Matsutake Mushroom, Foie Gras and Smoked Chicken ($108). Weighting in at 750g, the jumbo parcel also includes four-head abalone, foie gras, dried scallop, dried matsutake mushrooms, juicy smoked chicken, salted egg yolk, organic quinoa, black mushrooms, chestnuts and green beans, created by chef Mok under the Shangri-La Masterchef Series. Just 100 pieces are available, packaged in a diamond-shaped box with a Chinese rattle drum featuring cultural motifs of the festival.
For flavours that remind you of travels, the Heritage of Asia Dumpling Gift Set ($68 for 6) comprises unusual fillings such as Pad Kra Pao Moo; Yunnan Mushroom; and Foie Fras, Parma Ham and Roasted Chicken. Also limited to 100 sets.
Till to 14 Jun. Orders online before 31 May enjoy 15% early bird savings. Delivery is $20 to one location. Order 2 days in advance.
Sushi style: Syun (MICHELIN Plate 2019)
As part of Resorts World Sentosa’s Signature Dumpling Feast ($118 nett for 8), chef Noriyoshi Teruya of Syun has created a Japanese box sushi-inspired Chest of Pearls Dumpling. The Oshi-Sushi ‘dumpling’ is wrapped in bamboo skin and compressed, with Japanese rice, aburi tai (Japanese sea bream) and red miso Tajima Wagyu beef that is first sous-vide then seared. Don’t expect a steamed dumpling; this one is eaten chilled.
Pre-orders from 14 May -11 June, collection from 25 May-16 June. Delivery is $25 to one location, free delivery with online order of 3 sets or more.
Bak Kut Teh, ginseng: Jade (MICHELIN Plate 2019)
Ever resourceful, executive Chinese chef Leong Chee Yeng and team have crafted two original flavours in the form of Ginseng Chicken ($18) and Bak Kut Teh ($12). As nourishing as they sound, the ginseng chicken-inspired dumpling is redolent with the aroma, while containing marinated chicken thigh meat, Chinese ham, black mushroom and salted egg yolk. The Bak Kut Teh, modelled after the iconic meat bone broth, is coloured a sprightly green from natural spring onion dye, and holds marinated pork belly, red bean, mushroom and salted egg yolk; accompanied by black sauce and red chilli like the real thing.
25 May-14 June. Online orders before 31 May enjoy 10% early bird savings. Delivery is $20 to one location. Order 2 days in advance.
Sambal, kaya: Raffles Hotel Singapore (Tablet Hotels)
While yì by Jereme Leung is best known for its luxurious 12-head Abalone and Jinhua ham ($48) traditional bak chang, chef is also known to put a local spin on his creations. The Spiced Pork Belly ($18) incorporates a touch of sambal to accentuate pork belly, Japanese dried scallops and Sakura shrimp. For an anytime treat, the Kee Chang with Raffles Signature Kaya Jam ($22, 5 pieces) includes a 200g jar of the Singapore-style coconut pandan jam to dip or spread on as you like.
1-14 Jun. Pre-orders before 31 May enjoy 20% early bird savings.
Mango sago jelly: Crystal Jade Golden Palace (MICHELIN Plate 2019)
As the definition of ‘dumpling’ expands to accommodate young and experimental palates, Crystal Jade Group comes up with the Petite Mango Sago Fruity Crystal Jelly Dumpling ($7.80 for 3). The chilled crowd pleaser is actually a konnyaku pyramid studded with fresh mango chunks, bittersweet pomelo sacs and crunchy basil seeds.
Pre-orders on e-store from 26 April-9 June (promotion code <5OFFCJRD> for 5% savings), and outlet sales from 10 May-14 June. Jadeite, UOB and Citibank cardmembers enjoy 10% savings. Delivery is $12 to one location.