Today is Kouchung day. As I browse the internet, I am told that in the olden days people used to throw rice dumplings to the river to commemorate the sacrifice of one, Qu Yuan, a renowned person of the old China. If I remember correctly, today is also the day when Dragon boat races are carried out, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such activities have to be halted.
I decided to go through some writings concerning Qu Yuan, and found that he was born in 340 Before Christ, was a poet and a statesment for the Chu Kingdom. He served in high office but lost the favour of King Huai of Chu because of slander and was exiled. He was claimed to have committed suicide by drowning at the Miluo River after finding out the collapse of the Chu kingdom. Another internet source claims that he didn’t commit suicide but drowned when trying to escape armies from the opposition camp. I guess we will never know which version is true.
As to how to rice dumpling came about, it was said that the people loved him so much that when he drowned, they tried to save him. But when they failed, they began to throw rice dumplings into the river so fishes won’t feast on his corpse. Another story version says that the rice dumpling is thrown to the river so that the late poet will have food to eat in the afterlife. Again, who is to know which version is true. Or perhaps, they are both true.
I also listened to the poem claimed to be written by Qu Yuan on YouTube. For me, he sounded like a broken man, lamenting about how he got to the place where he was. I assume the poem was written during his period of exile. I would never have imagine that a sad, sad story is connected to the kouchung, which is most delicious.
My own mother used to purchase kouchung when I was small, and we all relish the taste of it. I think the Sabah version of the kouchung is the ketupat. As I ponder about it, I come to my own conclusion that there are similarities between the tradition of local Sabahans and the Chinese in mainland China. The difference between both is one uses bamboo leaves while the other uses coconut leaves, and also the style of weaving the casing is different. Ketupat is also merely glutinous rice, while the kouchung often contained meat and nuts and salted eggs within the glutinous rice dumpling. In any case, both are delicious.
Glutinous rice = beras pulut.
- To make kouchung, go to this website https://tasteasianfood.com/zongzi-recipe/
Readers who are in need of kouchung pictures for their write ups or research can contact me at 0128018007. I have a large number of kouchung pictures.