It’s sticky rice filled with chicken (or pork) and black mushrooms, sometimes with peanuts or chestnuts or both, wrapped in leaf then steamed.
In the Philippines, it is known as machang and it is often listed under the dimsum items in Chinese restaurant menus. That the dish is Chinese in origin, there is no doubt. But is it lo mai gai or zongzi?
Lo mai gai is wrapped in lotus leaf and shaped as a rectangle. Zongzi is wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and shaped like a pyramid or a cone. Both are filled with chicken or pork and other savory ingredients.
In the Philippines, machang is either rectangular or triangular. The leaf wrapper does not always look the same.
I think that both lo mai gai and zongzi are sold as machang in the Philippines. That’s why they are sometimes rectangular and, at other times, triangular. That is also why the consistency and color of the sticky rice, and the flavors, vary so much.
How lo mai gai became machang is a mystery to me but I’m guessing that whoever introduced the dish in the Philippines came from either of two towns named Machang in China (one is a town of Qing County in eastern Hebei province while the other is a town of Quanjiao County in eastern Anhui province.
Or, a Filipino first experienced the leaf-wrapped sticky dish in Machang, China, (or, maybe, in the Machang area of Kelantan, Malaysia), did not know what it was called or couldn’t pronounce its name, replicated the dish in the Philippines and decided to simply call it machang.
I wish I knew the correct answer. As that wicked lawyer, Manfred Powell (played by Iain Glen), said in 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, “My ignorance amuses me.” Ha!
P. S. Thank you, Sam, for taking and editing the photos.