Chinese sticky rice parcels are called “bacang” (pronounced “ba-san”) in my family. It is also called zongzi. While you can buy them from Asian stores, my mother used to always make them because not only did hers taste much better, it was the only way to guarantee its freshness. It’s really hard to tell how fresh a bacang parcel is until you open it up (and by then, you would’ve already parted with your money!). However it is a time consuming process which requires a bit of forward planning so we would often only have it for special occasions or family gatherings where there are a few helping hands.
Serves 12-15 parcels
Prep time 2 hours + overnight soaking
Cook time 3 hours
1kg glutinous rice (uncooked)
45-50 dried bamboo leaves
Cotton string or twine
8 medium dried shiitake, halved
700g pork belly, chopped to 2cm pieces
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp chicken powder (we use Knorr brand)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 star anise
1 tbsp canola oil
50g brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried ground prawn
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
15 dried shrimp
3 Chinese sausages, sliced
Soak the glutinous rice in water overnight (or for at least 3 hours if in a rush).
Soak the shiitake mushrooms for at least 1 hour before using (retain the water for use later).
Soak the dried bamboo leaves for approximately 30 minutes to soften. Then wash the leaves making sure to wipe down each leaf of any debris. You can use fresh bamboo leaves but they tear much easier and are harder to wrap.
Marinade the pork belly with the dark soy sauce, chicken powder, salt and pepper for at least 1 hour.
Heat the canola oil in a large pot and add the brown sugar. When the sugar starts to boil, add the pork belly, garlic, star anise, dried ground prawn, dried prawns and shiitake mushrooms. The pork belly would release some juices so you will need to cook until the juices have mostly evaporated (approximately 30 minutes).
Once the pork belly has cooked, top up with water, including the water for soaking the mushrooms, until the pork is covered. Let it simmer slowly for 1 hour, topping with more water if necessary.
After the pork belly has cooked and is tender, remove from the pot leaving the gravy. Drain the glutinous rice of water and add the rice and Chinese five spice powder to the pot of gravy. Let it simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the gravy has been mostly absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. The glutinous rice should be half-cooked by this stage.
Take two bamboo leaves and overlap half on top of each other with the pointy ends facing down. Grab a third bamboo leaf, with the point end facing up, and overlap between the two bamboo leaves approximately halfway. Overlap the leaves on top of each other, forming a cone. See steps 1-3 in the images below.
Then fill the cone with glutinous rice, pork belly, Chinese sausage slices, mushroom, prawn and more glutinous rice. I usually put in one of each ingredient as the filling. Fold over on to each other into a roughly ‘triangle’ parcel making sure that it is rather compact. We will be boiling the parcels so we want to make sure that the rice is pretty snug and holds its shape. See steps 4-6 in the images below.
Tie up each wrapped parcel with cotton string or twine to ensure it doesn’t unravel. My mother often ties up about 6 parcels together to form an easy-to-carry bundle for handing out to family and friends to take home. It also makes it easier to haul the parcels out of the water after boiling.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the wrapped parcels into the water. Boil for 1 hour and let it cool slightly before serving. We usually have it with some chilli sauce.