Keeping dumpling tradition alive in new ways

Traits of the trade: Tan started making rice dumplings since she was nine years old and has now taken her business online.

PETALING JAYA: While many celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival to commemorate the poet Qu Yuan, for Tan Ai Beng, it is another festive family reunion.

She said the festival was a time for a family reunion as all her siblings used to travel back to their hometown in Taiping to help their mother prepare rice dumplings.

“My mother used to sell rice dumplings all year round but demand will go up during the festival.

“So, we took off to help in preparing the dumplings.

“Since all of us are back home, the festival is almost like another Chinese New Year,” she added.

Tan, 56, said she started helping her mother when she was nine.

“Our family was poor so we would help our mother after school every day.

‘’I started with the basic preparations such as cleaning the bamboo leaves, cutting the shallots and picking the glutinous rice as it is often mixed with white rice.

“Only glutinous rice will release a good amount of starch when cooked, which makes the dumplings sticky, so the step is very crucial,” she added.

For Tan, rice dumplings are eaten all year long and it is her daughters’ favourite dish.

“They said it would be a waste to forgo this skill that I inherited from my mother,” she said.

With the help of her daughters, Tan founded Ming Rice Dumplings, an online and delivery-based business.

“My family has been hit hard by the pandemic.

“The idea of starting this business came during the first movement control order last year.

“I prepare the rice dumplings while my girls help me with the business operation such as designing the packaging, shipping and marketing,” she said.

While many customers have asked Tan for more variations, she insists on staying with the traditional Hokkien style.

“Some suggested having abalone to make it fancier or having double salted egg yolk.

“A good rice dumpling should have the optimal portion of each ingredient,” she said, adding that the key ingredients were glutinous rice, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, chestnuts and salted egg yolk along with her secret sauce passed down from her mother.

Separately, Kuala Lumpur folk who crave authentic Nyonya dumplings from Melaka can place their orders through Capitol Cafe located in the heart of the city.

Its proprietor Datuk Seri Koh Yock Heng said their staff would hand-deliver these traditional dishes made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings.

“Due to the interstate travel ban, the people can still enjoy this delicacy in the comfort of their homes.

“We sell two types of chicken-based dumplings: original and sambal Nyonya dumplings,” he said, adding that another special variety was its nasi lemak style chicken ikan bilis dumpling.

Koh said with the lockdown still enforced and no dine-in ruling, they decided to do their part to help preserve the culture and tradition through home deliveries.

“We hope the people of all races can enjoy this delicacy so that joy and laughter can still be felt amid the pandemic,” he said.

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