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On Why Eating Rice Dumplings in Dragon Boats is so Cool


Posted on 23 Jun, 2012 | Eat Magazine

photo credit: Darren Ng

How could dragon boats and rice dumplimgs go together? In modern Singapore, they just do as locals celebrate the Chinese festival of Duanwu.

This year it falls on June 23, a Saturday, when you see most neighborhood markets and coffeeshops are filled with rice dumplings.  Several days before, I saw an uncle buy several dozens along an eatery specializing on rice dumplings along Balestier Rd.  For most families, it is a time when your mother and other aunties cook overnight dozens rice dumplings, known also as "bachang" or" zonzi". The result? you simply have an oversupply of rice dumplings for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. 

The tradition of preparing and eating rice dumplings on such a day was said to originate with the death of famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan in a river. Fishermen then set out in boats to rescue him. But they failed to retrieve him so they thought of thwarting hungry fishes by throwing rice dumplings into the river hoping the fish would instead the rice dumplings and not his body.

Two traditions were then created. The dragon boat racing symbolic of the fervent search by the the fishermen in boats. And the offering of  rice dumplings to appease the river spirits.

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