Healthier dumplings for the Dragon Boat festival this season


Arrival of the Duanwu (Dragon Boat) festival also brings along with it the rice dumplings season. Zongzi (or sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during this festival that falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.  However, white rice has been linked to diabetes, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. Earlier this month, the Health Promotion Board released a report to the same effect.

In this meta study involving over 350,000 participants it was found that each plate of white rice eaten in a day – on a regular basis – raises the risk of diabetes by 11% in the overall population. It was found that white rice is also more potent than soda drinks in causing diabetes.

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The focus of most celebrations during Duanwu Festival involves eating zongzi (sticky rice treats wrapped in bamboo leaves). Source: Wikimedia

Responding to the health guidelines, healthier rice dumplings options are now being provided by the restaurants. Since, it is recommended to eat brown rice or mixed grains to reduce risk of diabetes, they are offering a variety of mixed grains as well as brown rice as options for dumplings.

Hai Tien Lo, a Chinese restaurant in Pan Pacific Singapore, is using a mixture of brown rice, oats, pearl barley, buckwheat, sorghum and black glutinous rice to prepare Fragrant Red Bean Dumpling, essentially replacing glutinous rice completely. It introduced this multi-grain rice dumpling because of “increasing demand from guests who want healthier ingredients,” says Mr Sumanth Das, 40, the hotel’s director of restaurants, bar and events. Pan Pacific also offers its diners the option of choosing brown rice as no additional charge.

Last year, Orchard Hotel had introduced brown rice dumpling served with a trio of mushrooms and black summer truffle paste. The dumpling is made with 70-per cent brown rice and 30-per cent white glutinous rice, which helps retain its shape and stickiness, says the hotel’s general manager Richard Ong. This healthier alternative was exceptionally well-received by diners prompting the hotel to bring them into their menu this year.

Sales of the brown rice dumpling have so far been comparable to last year. In 2015, brown rice dumplings made up about 35 per cent of the total sales of rice dumplings. Mr Ong expects a surge in sales in the week before the Dragon Boat Festival.

White rice dumplings, however, continue to rule the palates of most people. There are some local flavors in the menus this year like the Singapore chilli crab rice dumpling with chilli crab sauce along with some exotic ones like crocodile meat and XO sauce rice dumpling.