Singapore Find: Bak Chang (Zongzi)

Mr. Peng was about to close his shop called Hoo Kee Rice Dumpling (Amoy Street Food Centre, stall 01-18). I was going to be the last customer of the day. I approached with trepidation, fearing he wouldn’t serve me at all. He turned to me:

“All I have left is one mushroom with chestnut. Is that OK?”

Oh, that would be excellent (since that was the variety I wanted anyways), I replied.

Mr. Peng peeled away the outer leaf from the bak chang for me (still steaming) and plated it. I eagerly dug in.

WOW. Probably the best dang zongzi I’ve had outside Taiwan / HK. Definitely the best I’ve had in Singapore. The braised pork shoulder meat was so tender, it practically melted into the glutinous rice and became one with it. The mushroom stalk (which can be often a tad too chewy in zongzi if included) had been thoughtfully cut off prior to cooking, and the inclusion of chestnut offers a faintly sweet textural contrast. The gestalt was textbook perfect.

I could have devoured another five or six of these incredible bak chang, but alas, Mr. Peng had to go home for the night.

Alfred Lord Tennyson once quipped, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ Well, that’s kinda how I felt as the shop shuttered for the night. This one dish alone made it worth the airplane ticket from L.A. - SO worth it.