Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Specially Wrapped Surprise: Taiwanese Rice Dumpling

For my final Passion Blog on Taiwanese foods, I decided to choose a food that is very difficult to make; Taiwanese Rice Dumplings or “Bah-Tzang” in Taiwanese.  There is nothing quite like the exquisite taste, sweet pungent scent, and pyramid-shaped structure of the Taiwanese Rice Dumpling.  It is made from sticky rice wrapped with Taiwanese bamboo and can contain a variety of fillings such as pork, mushrooms, shrimp, and other ingredients.  The unique thing about Bah-Tzang is that they can even be filled with sweet red-bean paste that surely pleases everyone’s taste buds.  What is the best part, you might ask?  The entire dumpling is infused with the aroma and delightful taste of bamboo leaves, which I love.

There really is not substitute for this delicious treat that is perfect for any occasion.  When my mom first introduced me to this dish when I was a child, I became an instant fan.  The soft and moist texture of the dumpling’s inside tasted like nothing I had before.  The Bah-Tzang is tied to a true story of a famous poet in China who committed suicide by tying a heavy stone and jumping into a river after his nation’s capital had been overtaken by opposing forces.  In order to try and protect his body from fish, the villagers threw Bah-Tzang into the river to get the fish to eat the dumplings instead of the poet’s body.  To this day I still love eating Bah-Tzang with my family and talking life.  A good dinner starts with the people you love most in life at the table and the delectable meals that complement the experience.


– 5 cups of glutinous rice

– 1/2 pound of dried mung beans

– 20 dried chestnuts

– 1 tablespoon of salt

– 1/8 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

– 10 dried black mushrooms , soaked with stems removed and caps sliced

– 20 bamboo leaves

– 1/2 pound pork belly, sliced


#1) Add glutinous rice, mung beans, and chestnuts to separate bowls
#2) Add enough water to cover the mixture in the bowls and let the bowls soak overnight
#3) Drain the rice, mung beans, and chestnuts before combining them in a large bowl (Do this after the ingredients soak overnight)
#4) Add the salt and five-spice powder and stir to a thick coat
#5) Soften mushrooms by pouring warm water over them.  Let the mushrooms soak in the water for 20 minutes.  Drain the water.
#6) Cut off the mushroom stems and vertically slice the mushroom caps
#7) Put the bamboo leaves in a large pot
#8) Pour enough water into the pot to cover the bamboo leaves and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes.  Drain the water and let the leaves cool.
#9) Pat the bamboo leaves dry before wrapping.
#10) Place two of the bamboo leaves, slightly overlapping, on a clean table
#11) Add about 1/3 of the rice mixture into the center of the leaves
#12) Top each mound of rice with a slice of pork and a few slices of mushroom
#13) Cover the filling with about 2 tablespoons of rice and the mung bean mixture
#14) Fold the leaves over completely and secure the inside filling
#15) Use string or kitchen twine to lace the dumpling on all sides.
#16) Place the dumplings in a large pot and bring water to a boil
#17) After 4 to 5 hours lower the heat, or when the dumplings are soft and moist.  Cook for an additional 4 to 5 hours and add water when necessary.
#18) Drain the water from the dumplings and serve hot. Enjoy!






General Education Post

As a second-semester freshman at Penn State, I have taken two General Education courses that I believe are beneficial to all students regardless of which major they ultimately pursue: English 015 and Economics 102. Not all General Education courses seem as relevant as these two courses to students and to their prospective futures. This is the reason why General Education reform is a must, but it must be done with meticulous care and attention.

The proposed 30-credit template appears to be a great alternative to the other options of Exploration, Integration, and Skills. There is much more freedom for students to decide what interests them. By requiring students to choose 9 credits each from both Themes and Exploration, this leaves 12 credits (about 4 courses) for them to decide if they want to continue with a theme or try different courses.

My only concern is that not all students will fully understand the changes made to the entire structure of the General Education program here at Penn State. The amendments must be sensible and clear to all students before they can be implemented. This discussion of General Education’s revolutionary reform and adoption of a committee called “General Education Task Force” sound quite restricting and imposing for the average student. It is contradictory what General Education should be about; General Education should prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge required to succeed in an ever-changing global society.

Stance for General Education Recommendation Report

The current General Education program at Penn State should have a main focus on Exploration and a secondary focus on Skills.  The Themes option offers a list that is not comprehensive for the enormous diversity of students of different races, ethnicity, religion, and countries of the world.  For upcoming high school seniors that are transitioning to college, Exploration allows the most flexibility in terms of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses available for students.  Even for those students who have completed their first year, Exploration encompasses a broad spectrum of courses that can lead students towards a specific major, minor, or even double-major in particular areas of study.  A secondary focus on Skills can teach students the basic tools sought by employers such as proficiency in EXCEL, coding, and computer programming.  The General Education outline should be represented by about 75% Exploration and 25% Skills.

We, as a collective student-body, must be open to new ideas and opinions that can further our university’s standing in the nation as well as the world.  This means that we should not limit our students’ academic paths with a Theme-based General Education curriculum that is represented by the ideas of an elite minority “General Education Task Force”.  General Education cannot and should not turn into a restrictive academic plan for students that complicates and confuses the students.  The last thing that University officials want to do is create opposition to a newly established General Education plan.  Ultimately, students must feel comfortable and at ease with the final revisions agreed upon by all parties.


Taiwanese Scallion Pancakes

“Cong You Bing” or Taiwanese Scallion Pancakes consist of scallions, oil, and flatbread dough.  The dish is a savory treat that can be paired with any Chinese or Taiwanese main entrees.  Scallion pancakes are comparable to pita breads, but the consistency of scallion pancakes is much crispier and has a perfect combination of salty and greasy goodness.  There are some variations of Cong You Bing where chopped fennel greens and sesame seeds are included along with the scallions in the dough before the pancake is fried.  An additional method of cooking the scallion pancake is combining beaten eggs on one side of the pancake before frying in a pan.  The succulent flavors of the egg and scallion pancake make for a delicious snack during any time of the day.

There is a legend behind the scallion pancake in which Marco Polo borrowed the dough he found in China and that pizza evolved from the scallion pancake in this way.  Italians altered the method of making pizza indefinitely, but there are many different stories of possible legends of how pizza originated.  Some believe that Marco Polo missed Cong You Bing so much that he made chefs in Italy to make their own variation to the scallion pancake.

Cong You Bing’s origin dates back so long ago that many Chinese historians cannot fully agree on where it was created.  Many believe Cong You Bing originated in Shanghai, where many Indians had once lived.  This makes sense due to the scallion pancake’s similarity to Indian naan bread.

There is one specific variation of the Taiwanese Scallion Pancake that is from Korea, seafood pancake or Haemul Pajeon.  It is made from batter, scallions, shrimp, and a little dipping sauce that goes along with the dish.  This is a very popular food in Korean culture and can be found ready-to-eat at Korean grocery stores such as H-Mart. Many times seafood pancakes are eaten with Kim Chi and Miso Soup for added flavor.  Based off of my own personal opinion (I have tried both pancakes before), I believe that Scallion Pancakes have a better taste and is more suitable for the likings of all people.  Not every person that I know enjoys seafood and the battered egg combination is much different from other dishes in various cultures.


#1) Create a thick dough by mixing water and flour

#2) Mix the dough manually or with a mixer until you reach an even consistency

#3) Add minced scallions

#4) Mix again thoroughly

#5) Roll out the pancakes with a rolling pin and fry

#6) Serve and enjoy with soy sauce.