AFN Recommends SG: The Art of Rice Dumplings

AFN Recommends SG: The Art of Rice Dumplings

An age-old tradition in modern Singapore, take a step back to join us in our journey in the art of rice dumpling this Dragon Boat festival with Joo Chiat Kim Choo.

Legend has it, the Dragon Boat Festival was held to commemorate the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan in the Zhou Dynasty, who threw himself into the river to end his life. Fishermen beat their oars against the water and cooked rice wrapped in leaves were thrown into the water to stop fishes from devouring his body

Today, the festival is celebrated with triangular glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in pandan leaves (also known as Bak Zhang). With a wide variety of fillings and no stranger to Singaporeans, the humble Joo Chiat Kim Choo stands out with their authentic rice dumplings with a family recipe that has been passed down for generations.


A rice dumpling takes at least three days to make and is an art that takes a lifetime of practice for perfection. With five key steps to preparing Joo Chiat Kim Choo dumplings, we took a peek behind the scenes of how Joo Chiat Kim Choo makes their rice dumplings.

Day 1: Prepping the ingredients


Their day starts with preparation of the ingredients - glutinous rice and meat. The premium grade glutinous rice used in their dumplings were first washed and left to soak overnight. Drained of water and stir-fried in the morning and prepped for the assembly section. Their meat is first boiled, minced into pieces after thoroughly cooked the day before and left to cool and marinated in various spices overnight.

The last piece of the star that wraps everything together? Bamboo leaves! They’re washed thoroughly by boiling in hot water and left to soak, and sorted according to size.


Day 2: Wrapping of the rice dumplings


With all ingredients prepped overnight and in the morning, they’re moved to the assembly section where the magic happens with the masters of the craft. Bundled into triangular rice parcels with the clean bamboo or pandan leaves, these rice dumplings go through the hands of the experts and tied with colourful cotton strings that indicates their flavour inside. The key to a good rice dumpling is to find the right balance between the ingredients and the glutinous rice that makes a great combination of flavours.


This stage is the toughest part when it comes to rice dumpling making, it requires good technique, practice and lots of patience. It may seem easy to everyone, but it takes a lot of time and patience to master the skill of wrapping a rice dumpling. It’s tough but fun and rewarding!

P.S. Joo Chiat Kim Choo’s craftsmen typically take a minimum of six months to master the skill of assembling and wrapping a dumpling. Many years more to master a perfect dumpling!


An ode to the art of rice dumpling making


Chinese rice dumpling is one of the main foods eaten during Dragon Boat Festival, but the art of making these dumplings is dying because the process involves many steps and requires good technique, practice and lots of patience. 

Yes, it involves lots of time and hardwork to each rice dumpling. But bonding with family and friends over these backbreaking work is worth the time spent with our loved one while keeping precious and delicious traditions alive. Afterall, tough work makes rewards taste sweeter and better!


Want to learn how to wrap and tie rice dumplings? Keep an eye out on their website and social media channels for educational workshops from Joo Chiat Kim Choo as they’re hoping to resume their workshops once Covid-19 measures are lifted safely.


Try out the various flavours from various Chinese dialects - Emperor’s Dumpling (Hokkien), Hakka Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables (Hakka) and Nonya dumpling from Joo Chiat Kim Choo!


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Fun fact: There are around 320 Joo Chiat Kim Choo dumplings handmade in each batch!



Author’s note: 

Joo Chiat Kim Choo is unrelated to Kim Choo Kueh Chang and currently not located at Joo Chiat.


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