Celebrate Dragon Boat Festival 2023 by savouring these best bak chang (also known as bak zhang, zongzi, or rice dumpling) in Singapore. Singaporeans would be familiar with this popular seasonal dish. Bak chang is the Hokkien name for a glutinous rice dumpling, which is made by wrapping meat (bak) in a dumpling (chang). The dumpling is then encased in a banana leaf, and cooked either by steaming or boiling. The dish is traditionally consumed around the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on 22 June 2023 and commemorates the Chinese poet Qu Yuan. According to legend, Qu attempted suicide by drowning himself in a river, and people tried to distract evil spirits away from his body by splashing the water with their paddles and throwing rice dumplings in as an offering. While the term bak chang is best known in Singapore, in Mainland China, the name “zongzi” is preferred. Various dialect groups also have their own versions of it. Hokkien bak chang, for instance, uses pork belly and chestnut, while the Cantonese style has split mung bean and waxed sausage. Peranakan cuisine has also given birth to the Nyonya bak chang, which dyes the rice blue using butterfly pea flower. To celebrate Dumping Festival 2023 in Singapore, food producers like Joo Chiat Kim Choo still maintain the old way of making bak zhang, while Chinese restaurants including Beng Hiang, Crystal Jade, and Paradise Group have since gotten in on the act with their own takes for 2023. Then there are contemporary flavours such as an onigiri-inspired bak chang, stuffings of white pepper crab, and a sweet rendition similar to Thai-style coconut sticky rice. Vegetarians are not left out either, with options like cordyceps flower with purple glutinous rice. Read on to find out where to find the best version of the bak zhang this year.
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Where to find the best bak chang/rice dumplings in Singapore for Dragon Boat Festival 2023
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Hokkien restaurant Beng Hiang sticks with traditional flavours for their rice dumplings to honour heritage. Established in 1978, they’ve become a reliable name for Hokkien cuisine and a go-to place for authentic dishes like the all-time favourite Hokkien rice dumpling (S$6.80+ each). For the dumpling festival in 2023, expect dumplings that contain generous amounts of braised pork belly, dried shrimps, fragrant shiitake mushrooms, and chestnuts stir-fried with a five-spice mix and dark soy sauce, all packed tightly in glossy glutinous rice. 22 May – 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Beng Hiang)
Crystal Jade’s five spice-marinated pork rice dumpling (S$9.80 each) and luxe jumbo-sized Hong Kong-style abalone rice dumpling (S$25.80 each) remain a favourite among diners for their classic execution. This year, the group also taps on local palates with the scallion oil chicken with preserved vegetable cai po rice dumpling (S$8.80 each). The homemade scallion oil infuses a subtle fragrance into the meat and grains, while the stir-fried radish adds delightful crunchy bites of savouriness. Now until 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Crystal Jade)
Get your hands on some of the most authentic rice dumpling at Joo Chiat Kim Choo Kueh Chang. In business for generations, the beloved Singapore brand offers classics like the sweet-savoury Nyonya rice dumpling (S$5 each), Hokkien rice dumpling with salted egg yolk (S$5.30 each), and Teochew rice dumpling (S$6 each). They also serve the lesser-seen Hakka pork belly with preserved vegetables rice dumpling (S$6.80 each), where you’ll find the savoury flavour of the salty mui choy prevalent with every bite of the well-cooked glutinous rice. Available year-round. (Image credit: Joo Chiat Kim Choo)
Creativity and tradition cross paths at Madame Fan thanks to the hands of executive Chinese chef, Pak Chee Yit. He has crafted familiar yet modern rice dumplings in three flavours – namely the Chaoshan sweet and savoury rice dumpling (S$48 each), XO abalone and Hokkaido dried scallop rice dumpling (S$48 each), and the sweet candied jujube and red bean vegetarian rice dumpling (S$28 each). The Chaoshan dumpling is a Teochew bak zhang that features Kurobuta pork belly, Parma ham, salted egg yolk, dried shrimp, Chinese mushroom, Chinese sausage, and chestnut. Seafood lovers will take to the clam-filled rice dumpling – starring six-head South African abalone, mini abalone, and Hokkaido dried scallop flavoured with Madame Fan’s homemade XO sauce. Now until 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Madam Fan/JW Marriott Singapore)
Specialising in Hong Kong-style rice dumplings, Paradise Group is one of the best places for savoury bak changs in Singapore, such as the pork with conpoy and chestnut rice dumpling (S$12.80 each). Modern creations like the salted pork belly brown rice dumpling ($11.80 each), the pillow-shaped premium abalone rice dumpling (S$23.80 each), and the east-meets-west black truffle charred BBQ Iberico pork rice dumpling (S$13.80 each) are best-sellers too. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the braised pork belly with Japanese mushroom and conpoy rice dumpling ($12.80 each). For a more premium take, opt for the roasted pork with dried shrimp and conpoy spicy rice dumpling (part of a gift set only; $68.80 for a mixed set of five), which swaps out the usual braised pork belly for the crunchy texture and mildly spicy punch of dried shrimp and conpoy. Meanwhile, fans of sweet zongzis will love the gula Melaka red bean paste rice dumpling (S$6.80 each). 22 May -22 June 2023 (Image credit: Paradise Group)
This Teochew heritage brand, managed by the Breadtalk Group, is known for their classic best-sellers: Teochew double delight bak chang, and Teochew salted egg bak chang (S$6.80 each). The former is sweet and savoury thanks to the homemade sweet tau sar, savoury pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, and chestnuts, with a taste that’s well-balanced despite the contrasting ingredients. Vegetarians can also get Teochew vegetarian zongzi here. Excluding the ‘bak,’ it features sweet dried radish, fragrant shiitake mushrooms, mock mutton, roasted chestnuts, and the signature homemade sweet tau sar. Now until 22 June 2023 (Image credit: @Thye Moh Chan / Instagram)
Famous for its durian desserts, Goodwood Park Hotel applies their signature ingredient to a steamed kee zhang (S$12 per set of 3 pieces) that’s paired with an indulgent D24 durian dip. For the uninitiated, kee zhang is a plain alkaline rice dumpling which, in this case, is best served warm with the rich and luscious dip. Those after more classic flavours can also purchase the Hokkien-style bak chang and Hong Kong-style dumpling with homemade soya sauce. 1-22 June 2023 (preorder three days in advance) (Image credit: Goodwood Park Hotel)
Bak chang gets bold at Hai Tien Lo, which has come up with the Szechuan mala chicken rice dumpling (S$20 each). The Cantonese restaurant at Pan Pacific spices up chicken thigh, black fungus, and lotus root with Sichuan peppercorn, along with Chinese rice wine. Another unconventional flavour we love for the Dumpling Festival 2023 is the black glutinous (pulut hitam) Nyonya rice dumpling (S$17 each), which is packed with black and white glutinous rice, pork, candied melon, Japanese mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. 21 May – 25 June 2023 (Image credit: Pan Pacific Singapore)
Bak chang meets Japanese rice ball at Kuriya Japanese Market, which created the Fusion Zong x Onigiri glutinous rice dumplings (S$3.80 to S$4.20 each). The hybrid comes in flavours like pork with mushroom, XO dried scallop, and abalone unagi, the last highlighting braised baby abalone and teriyaki unagi kabakayi. There is also the matcha chocolate azuki shiratama onigiri, a sweet dumpling filled with white chocolate, matcha, azuki beans, mochi, and a nori wrap. 12 May – 30 June 2023 (Image credit: Kuriya Japanese Market)
Man Fu Yuan’s massive Cantonese XL rice dumpling (S$88 each) has all the hallmarks of the classic: abalone, pork belly, dried shrimp, roasted duck, and dace fish, but with a red quinoa riff. The uncommon seed also makes an appearance in the Australian pumpkin with quinoa rice dumpling (S$19.80 each), a sweet version joined by the equally luscious Japanese sweet potato and Australian pumpkin dumpling (S$19.80 each). Alongside them is the signature smoked duck with Yunnan black gold garlic rice dumpling (S$22.80 each), which is shaped like a large fig. 22 May – 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Intercontinental Singapore)
Resorts World Sentosa taps on its various dining establishments to create rice dumplings that reflect their cuisines. From Peruvian-Chinese restaurant Chifa!, the Peruvian duck juane dumpling is an ode to a traditional delicacy with South American spices, Chinese-style roast duck, and purple potato formed into a square parcel. There is also Soi Social’s Thai sweet potato and coconut dumpling, which is inspired by grilled sticky rice, and Japanese truffle crab dumpling by Syun. These flavours come in a set of six (S$128) that includes eight treasures foie gras dumpling, chicken dumpling with scallop and the mead-like chouchen, and Australian smoky pork dumpling. Now until 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Resorts World Sentosa)
Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant brings back its best-selling white pepper crab rice dumpling (S$22 each), whose aroma of freshly ground white pepper envelopes generous chunks of crab meat and black-eyed peas. Another creation is the oolong tea smoked roasted Irish duck rice dumpling (S$20 each), which packs tender Irish duck with preserved salted vegetables. The vegetarian-friendly cordyceps flower and purple glutinous rice dumpling (S$18 each) contains black truffle paste, while the new five-head abalone with karasumi and Iberico pork rice dumpling (S$30 each) holds the highly-prized karasumi (dried mullet roe), which has a hint of savouriness akin to salted egg yolk. 22 May – 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel)
For Dragon Boat Festival, Yi by Jereme Leung brings back the crowd-favourite butterfly pea flower kee chang with Raffles signature kaya jam (S28+ for 5), a violet-tipped, alkaline rice dumpling paired with the hotel’s coconut pandan spread. For more classic flavours, the braised pork belly with preserved mustard vegetables glutinous rice dumpling (S$22+ each) blends five-spiced pork belly with mustard greens, while the new 12-head abalone and preserved meats glutinous rice dumpling (S$49+ each) is backed by sakura ebi shrimp, salted egg yolk, chestnut, lotus seeds, pork belly, Japanese dried scallops, and sliced mung bean. 22 May – 22 June 2023 (Image credit: Raffles Hotel Singapore)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Rice dumplings are a traditional Chinese dish made out of glutinous rice, and stuffed with either sweet or savoury ingredients. They are then wrapped in bamboo leaves and either steamed or boiled.
Answer: In Singapore, rice dumplings are typically referred to as bak chang, a Hokkien term. They are also called zongzi, a name more common in Mainland China.
Answer: Classic rice dumplings are usually priced at around S$5 each. Versions with premium ingredients can cost over S$20 per piece.
Answer: Rice dumplings are traditionally eaten around Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar.
Answer: Based on a 2021 report by the Singapore Heart Foundation, a rice dumpling contains between 300 to 400 calories.
Answer: While rice dumplings are commonly consumed during Dragon Boat Festival, some Singapore food producers sell them year-round.