RICE DUMPLING MAKER
Yuk (玉 - “jade”)
Yuen Long (元朗)
05:00 - 16:00
“I’ve been working here at this local food stall for over 30 years. Every year, for two months before the Dragon Boat Festival, I am here busy making the festive rice dumplings all day. A lot of care goes into these dumplings - I prepare glutinous rice, pork, salted egg yolks for the savoury ones; red bean, peanuts and sugar in the sweet ones. It takes a long time to make them - the whole process from preparation to wrapping to steaming takes a whole 10 hours! In keeping with tradition, we wrap them with bamboo leaves; the fragrance is so unique and comforting. During the busy season, I make and sell over 200 dumplings a day. This whole festival is based on the Chinese legend of a loyal poet and court minister, who eventually lost the emperor’s trust. In despair, he drowned himself in a river and the villagers tried to paddle out on boats to rescue him - hence dragon boating. They weren’t able to find him and so dropped sticky rice dumplings into the river so that the fish would eat the dumplings instead of their beloved poet! And so, to this day, we still commemorate the festival with these delicious sticky dumplings.”
“We have a lot of regular customers who come to have their meals at our food stall. Apart from the festive rice dumplings, we also do a variety of rice and noodle dishes. When I’m not helping out with food preparation, I’m also serving and chatting with customers. Some families have been coming here for four generations and have become good friends of mine. Yuen Long is such a charming neighbourhood. It has a great community feel; people are friendly and there are a lot of independent shops keeping up local traditions and crafts. This area is also famous for ‘wife cakes’ - the delicious pastry filled with sweet winter melon paste. I love that I can still find flavours from my childhood here. Sometimes I reminisce about my childhood days, as things seemed a lot simpler back then. As kids, we would all play together and share meals with our neighbours. People didn’t even lock their front doors; it felt a lot more comfortable and safe. Things have changed quite a bit since then, but I’m happy to see that the younger generation is still interested in Hong Kong traditional culture. Most of the customers who come all the way here for my dumplings are actually youngsters!”
“My work is physically demanding and it’s particularly challenging in the summer - we have no air conditioning. Even though it’s hard work, I still enjoy it and want to keep going as I’m used to staying active and using my hands. During the busiest weeks, my kids will come all the way to Yuen Long to help me out with the dumpling making. They all have their own careers though, so I don’t think anyone will be taking over the stall in the future. I also don’t want them to be doing this kind of work - I’d prefer them to be more comfortable and to pursue their own interests. I take one day off every couple of weeks. Whenever I get the chance, I love to be out in nature. My kids took me on a camping trip once, and I absolutely loved it. I am surrounded by four walls all day, it is such a refreshing change to be near the mountains and by the sea. We just relax, eat and play all day; at peace and out in beautiful nature - what more do you need in life?