Lye Water Dumpling, Alkaline Dumpling, Kansui Dumpling (碱水粽)



As per Wikipedia, Kee Chang (碱粽)or lye dumpling or alkaline water dumpling are:

“Jianshui zong (碱水粽): Meaning “alkaline water zong,” these are typically eaten as a dessert item rather than as part of the main meal. The glutinous rice is treated with lye water (aqueous sodium hydroxide), or potassium carbonate, giving them their distinctive yellow color. Jianshui zong typically contain either no filling or are filled with a sweet mixture, such as sweet bean paste. Sometimes, a certain red wood sliver (shu mok) is inserted for color and flavor. They are often eaten with sugar or light syrup.” (Source:


My late mum is very good in wrapping Kee Chang , Her Kee Chang is very small, almost bite size and very springy.. Most of my relatives Kee Chang was prepared by her and in fact I did not like her prepared Kee Chang..


The main reason is that we are required to pick the jasmine rice grains in a pool of glutinous rice.and it may take days to pick the rice grains.. If the jasmine rice grain was wrapped together with the glutinous rice grain, the Kee Chang will not be translucent and it is very embarrassing to give others this type of Kee Chang . As free “child labour”, it is our responsibility to pick the grains during free time as early as 1-2 weeks before the actual wrapping..


I remembered she said that wrapping Kee Chang cannot be too tight, if it is too tight, all the glutinous rice when cooked will expand and hence break the leaves.. Therefore, the right way of wrapping is that you have to leave some space during wrapping, after tying, you will need to shake the uncooked Kee Chang and hear if there is any sound .. If there are sound resulted from rice grain hitting the leaves, the batch will be consider as good.. Well, it sounds easy but it really need practises.. It does not mean that the less rice it is, the better it will be.. If your rice is not adequate , your Chang may not be compact enough and there is a tendency to stick to the leaves.. Hope this also answer readers who are asking why their Kee Chang stuck to the leaves after cooking.


During her time, boric acid or 硼砂 or Peng say was used. These “food grade chemical” was used to enhance the binding and hence the texture of the Kee Chang. The Kee Chang will be springy and when you bite, it will not stick to your teeth and you felt like biting some fish balls.. Well, in olden days, boric acid was used in the preservation of seafood and also soaked cuttlefish to make them more springy. However, this chemical has been banned in Singapore quite a while back, therefore, there is no  Kee Chang of such texture.. Unsure about Malaysia, Singapore homemade Kee Chang will definitely not as springy as what you used to eat when you are young… The reason is very simply the lack of certain chemical in enhancing the binding and hence the texture.. We should have trust with the Government and I am definitely okay to forgo such traditional texture for the sake of better health..


As per Hong Kong Centre of Food Safety,

“Boron is a non-metallic element which never occurs in nature by itself. It mainly exists in the form of borates, compounds formed after combining with other substances, in the environment. Boron is also an essential micronutrient for optimum growth in plants. However, little is known about the function of boron in humans. Boric acid and borax have long been used as additive in various foods. Since boric acid and borax are effective against yeasts, and to a much lesser extent, against moulds and bacteria, they can be used to preserve food products. In addition, both of these additives can be used to increase the elasticity and crispiness of foods as well as prevent shrimps from darkening. Animal studies indicated that excessive ingestion of boric acid over a prolonged period may cause adverse reproductive and developmental effects. Boric acid and borax are non-permitted preservatives in food in Hong Kong.” (Source:


All Kee Chang recipe are rather simple, just some lye water or Kansu water or alkaline water and glutinous rice… Lye will provide colour and flavour for the dumpling. As for the lye component, it can be bottled alkaline or lye water sold in the bakery shop or it can be alkaline balls. For this recipe, I have used these type of alkaline ball which is very common during the Chang festival. You can easily get this orange balls in most supermarket or wet market at a very reasonable of price ..All you need is just one ball for about 1 kg of rice. However, I am unable to tell you how many tablespoons of lye water is needed. Too many tablespoons of lye water will make the Chang bitter with a weird taste..


“A lye is a liquid obtained by leaching ashes (containing largely potassium carbonate or “potash”), or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. “Lye” is commonly the alternative name of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or historically potassium hydroxide (KOH)..Lyes are used to cure many types of food, including lutefisk, olives (making them less bitter), canned mandarin oranges, hominy, lye rolls, century eggs, and pretzels. They are also used as a tenderizer in the crust of baked Cantonese moon cakes, in “zongzi” (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves), in chewy southern Chinese noodles popular in Hong Kong and southern China, and in Japanese ramen noodles. “(Source:



Servings: About 40-50 pieces of dumpling depending on size


  • 1 kilograms of glutinous rice
  • 1 lye rock
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • At least 50 pieces of bamboo leaves
  • At least 50 pieces of reed strings



PicMonkey Collage

  • In a pot with boiling water, boil the reed string and bamboo leaves for 10-15 minutes until the leaves and string are soft. Drain and set aside. If you have time, you can just soak the reed string and bamboo leaves overnight and there is no need to boil the leaves and string. If the leaves and string float upwards, put something heavy on top of the leaves.

  • On the night before the wrapping, soaked the glutinous rice, lye ball and 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Let it soak overnight . Prior to the wrapping, drain the rice and lightly rinse the rice with tap water to get rid of excess lye if any.

  • Take a bamboo leave and make it in a shape of a cone. Put one heapful tablespoon of rice. Lightly press down.  Press the tail of the bamboo leaves to cover the top portion and shape the tail like a swallow tail. Twist it side wards to follow the shape of the Chang. By now, your Chang should be in triangular shape and you should be able to hold the Chang in one hand. Take a string and loop around the Chang tie using a live knot. tie it firm. Shake the Chang likely ensure that you hear some rice grain hitting the leaves and if you find that it is too tight, try to adjust it now by loosening the string . After wrapping, cut off the excess leaves and check that there are no holes resulted from rough handling and there are small areas that are not covered with the leaves. 
  • When enough number of Chang are ready for boiling. boil some hot water. Put the wrapped Chang in the pressure cooker. Add in the hot water and ensure that the water cover the Chang. Close the lid and boil using the pressure cooker for about 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, release the pressure, take out one Chang immediately and open and see if it is already to the texture that you want. If not, continue to pressure cook for another 10 minutes. Add more hot water if desired.



This is a simple recipe that need practise.. One point to note is that you can only wrap the Chang to about 75% of cone and unlike Bak Chang where you need to be firm and compact. There are many alternatives to this basic recipe, you can add red bean grains, red bean paste and etc.. However, all these while, our family traditional way of servings are just as humble as dumping in white sugar or just eat as it is.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.



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