The little sister of the big and savory rice dumpling is the sweet rice dumpling, also known as alkaline dumpling, or kee-chang. This is also the first time of me making it.
Alkaline dumplings are always treated as dessert. Alkaline solution used in glutinous rice give them bright beautiful yellow that is almost luminous hue. The dumplings are bland by itself, so it is always served with thick syrup made of gula merah (gula melaka or palm sugar) and coconut milk. For some, it is also eaten with coconut jam (srikaya). Again, this is one of those cultural food items that we grow up and develop taste to. When you are used to gula merah syrup, you will feel it is not complete without it. If you grow up with taking kee-chang with coconut jam, you will probably stick with it for the rest of your life.
Only two ingredients are used for kee-chang. Glutinous rice and alkaline water. If you want your dumpling to be smooth and springy, you need to be willing to live dangerously for one day a year and add a pinch of borac acid (also called “peng seh“). Mother, and her mother, always adds that infamous ingredient into their dumplings. I believe it is a banned substance for any kind of using in food in a lot of countries. I have never had dumplings without it.
The glutinous rice needs to be of the best quality. Rinse well and soak overnight. On the day you plan to make the dumpling, drain the rice and place in a big bowl, enough to hold the rice. Add alkaline water into the bowl.
Add borac acid, if using.
Mix everything well. Leave on room temperature for 15 minutes and not longer than 30 minutes.
The bamboo leaves need to be prepared a day before. Get a pack of smaller and narrower leaves. Boil the leaves for 10-15 minutes and let cool. Wipe the leaves with clean kitchen towel to get rid off the dust and other dirt that come with the leaves. Soak the cleaned leaves in a big bucket of clean water. Keep soaked until using. When about to use, put a couple of wet kitchen towel on top of the leaves to keep it from drying out. Dried-out leaves can’t be used wrapping dumplings. We need the elasticity of wet leaves to shape the dumplings.
Get two leaves and stack them on top of each other, both ends are against each other, with the smooth part facing up. Hold them right in the middle.
Fold both sides up, with the sharp ends of the leaves tucked in the middle between the two wider part of the leaves. The stem should be parallel, two straight lines. Hold the end of the cone with ring finger and pinky finger.
Fill the cone with 2-3 tablespoons of glutinous rice, about 2/3 full (or 1cm below the rim of the cone).
Arrange the leaves so it is standing right up.
Use your thumb and pointy finger to press both sides of the cone, shaping a triangle. Fold the top of the leaves downward.
Pinch the top of the leaves and fold it in.
The dumpling is fold correctly when the dumpling is in the shape of a perfectly symmetrical triangle when viewed from all sides. Shake it lightly, when the rice grain rattles inside, you have done it right. It needs some space to fluff up when boiling.
Tie the middle of dumplings with a piece of string. Don’t tie it too tightly.
You are done. Do this with the rest of the rice.
Boil a pot of water over high heat. Lower the dumplings into boiling water. Turn the heat to medium and let cook for 6-10 hours. Remove from water and let hang to air-dry naturally.
Serve warm or cool with palm sugar syrup.
Do not keep leftover dumplings in a plastic bags or airtight container boxes. They would spoil prematurely. Wrap them in newspapers, if you must. Or leave on kitchen counter. After the third day, they should be kept in refrigerator. Steam before serving, or serve it cold.
Chinese Sweet Rice Dumpling, Alkaline Dumpling, Kee-Chang
1 kg glutinous rice, rinsed and soaked overnight, drained
4 tbsp alkaline water
Pinch of borac acid (optional)
120 small sized bamboo leaves
Gula merah/melaka syrup (palm sugar syrup)
500 cc coconut milk
750 g gula merah (gula melaka)
The day before preparation
Boil bamboo leaves for 10 minutes and let water cool down.
Wipe each leaves with clean kitchen towel and soak in water until using.
Wash glutinous rice with clean running water until water turns clear.
Soak rice for 10-12 hours.
Making the dumplings
Drain rice. Combine alkaline water and borac acid (if using).
Wrap the dumpling with two pieces of bamboo leaves, about 2 tablespoons of rice.
Tie with a string.
Boil a pot of water over high heat. Add the dumplings into boiling water.
Cook for 6-10 hours over medium heat.
Remove from water and let hang dry.
Serve with palm sugar syrup.
Making the syrup
Combine coconut milk and palm sugar in a pan.
Let boil and turn off heat.
Strain the syrup.
Keep in airtight container and refrigerate.