Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival with some home-made dumplings.

Once upon a time, glutinous rice dumplings were a once-ayear treat. These parcels of rice wrapped in bamboo leaves were eaten to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, or duan wu jie. Today, you can get a dumpling year-round, although eating one during the Dragon Boat Festival still feels somewhat special. And making your own can be even more so.

Wrapping dumplings, however, is an art that even chefs find difficult to master. “It’s much more difficult than it looks,” says Cheng Hon Chau, executive Chinese chef at the Cherry Garden restaurant in Mandarin Oriental. If you would like to try your hand at it, here are some tips from Cheng and his team.

Start by laying out all your ingredients. You will need dried bamboo leaves that have been soaked through. Soft, wet leaves fold more easily and also stick to each other — important as you layer the leaves to assemble your parcel. You will also need to soak your bamboo strings. Buy more leaves and strings than you think you will need, as it is inevitable that you will break some on your first few tries.

The traditional Cantonese dumpling typically consists of glutinous rice, beans, marinated pork belly, chestnuts and salted egg yolks. Cheng’s signature Black Garlic Glutinous Rice Dumpling uses a mixture of black and white rice to create a two-toned dumpling. He blackens his rice with bamboo charcoal powder. A small cube of black garlic and the addition of preserved vegetables add interesting flavours to the dumpling.

Begin with two or three leaves layered one on top of the other, with the pointed leaf tips at the bottom. The smooth side of the leaves should face you while the central vein of the leaves should be on the underside. Position your index finger about one-third of the way up from the bottom and fold the leaves to form a cone.

Next, fill the cone with your ingredients. Start with rice, add the other ingredients, and then top it up with rice again. Compact your ingredients into the cone as you go along. When you are done, the rice should come up to the rim of your cone — not bulge over it.

This last bit is the trickiest. Fold the leaves that are protruding above your cone down, so that the cone is covered. Fold over any excess leaves on the right and left of the cone, using your thumb and pinkie to secure them. These two points will form the two points of your pyramid’s triangle. Use your other hand to fold the excess leaves on the front of the cone down, and gather them to form the third point. Then, fold the remaining leaves to one side.

You should be looking at a pyramid by now, but do not be disappointed if you are not. Tie your package up and then move on. Making dumplings gets easier the more you practise. It helps if you picture the pyramid in your mind before you make the last fold. Submerge the dumplings in a pot of boiling water for four hours. The dumplings are ready to eat once they have been drained dry.

If you think all that sounds like too much trouble though, Cheng’s black garlic dumplings will be available until May 30.

 This article appeared in Issue 781 (May 29) of The Edge Singapore.