Sarawakian Instagrammer Ally Leong, 36, came up with the idea of a DIY papercraft dumpling tutorial of her favourite zongzi to teach her daughter Lina, six, and her son Yang, two.
Her tutorial was for papercraft zhongzi or sticky rice dumplings stuffed with fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. The items that went into the wrapper included glutinous rice and fillings such as lean meat, mushroom, peanuts, salted egg yolk.
She folded 12cm x 15cm green construction paper and shaped it into a paper bag to make pretend bamboo leaves.
“I used green construction paper to make a dumpling bag because it’s easier for her to place the fillings inside. She then folded it at the opposite side to turn it into a pyramid-shaped rice dumpling.”
For the fillings, they crumpled white paper towels to make "glutinous rice", cut brown felt into squares to make "lean meat" and dark brown felt into strips to make "mushroom", pretended the yellow-orange pompoms were "salted egg yolk" and crumpled brown cupcake liners were "peanuts". Then, they used rubber bands to secure the "rice dumplings".
“I prepared rubber bands for her to tie the dumplings as it is a little challenging for little hands to tie a knot using a string.”
Although it looks like a lot of work, Leong disclosed that the whole DIY dumpling tutorial only took her a total of 30 minutes to prepare.
“I usually plan and imagine the whole process of my papercraft in my head first. So, it took around 15 minutes to cut, fold and tape the green construction paper into bamboo leaves. And another 15 minutes to cut, fold and crumple the rest of the fillings.”
Leong also took the opportunity to teach her kids about the culture and history behind the festival.
“Zhongzi is a symbol for Chinese people to respect and honour Qu Yuan’s patriotism, righteousness, selflessness and loyalty. We explored the Chinese cultural topics, learned about patriotism, and revised relevant Chinese characters and phrases.
“We love inspiring stories. We learned that the patriotic minister Qu Yuan, who was beloved by citizens, was banished by the Emperor Chu. In his exile, he expressed his loyalty to the state and concern for its future. In his despair, Qu Yuan jumped into the river and committed suicide. The citizens tried to rescue him. They beat drums and threw rice dumplings into the water to feed the fishes in the river so that they would not eat his body up.“
However, Leong felt suicide was inappropriate, so she had an open discussion with her children about mental health and suicide and told them that if they felt upset, unhappy or depressed, the first step was always to reach out to an adult they trusted to ask for help.
“My child has always enjoyed pretend plays as she learns by observing, imagining and doing. It improves her language skill as we practise new names and phrases related to Dragon Boat festival in Chinese in a meaningful manner.
“She had a lot of fun creating her own storylines and characters, and the acting engaged her in imaginative play, in this case, pretending to make real rice dumplings with all the materials I had prepared. She even 'cooked' the paper rice dumplings in 'boiling water' on her play stove, and served them up to us to enjoy her delicious handmade paper leaf-wrapped sticky rice dumplings. Together, we celebrated the special Chinese traditional Dragon Boat festival.
“It’s the time of the year we can enjoy the special homemade rice dumplings made by my mum. We would celebrate, dine and spend quality bonding together. However, we couldn’t do it this year due to the pandemic.
"We don’t make dumplings ourselves as my mum would make them for us every year. She would specially make our favourite dumplings that are really tasty and suit our taste. It's not something we can buy from the store."
Leong revealed that her daughter had tried to learn how make the real dumplings from her mother last year during the Dragon Boat festival. So, since they could not return home to celebrate this year, she decided to make papercraft dumplings instead.
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