This blog post is resulted from a very interesting exchange with friends on Facebook yesterday, after I shared pictures of Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings). As you know, many Chinese traditional festivals are associated with food one way or another, and in the case of Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 23rd of June this year, there are various legends and myths surrounding the origin of why we eat Zongzi, race dragon boats and drink realgar wine on this particular day.
Duanwu_Festival is celebrated in China, in many other parts of Asia as well as overseas on the fifth day of May (hence also known as Double Fifth) according to the lunar Chinese calendar. Consequently the date varies each year according to the Western Sun calendar.
One of the most popular myths is associated with the death of Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who has written a number of much loved poetry and served the King of Kingdom Chu during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. When his beloved kingdom was taken by the enemy Qin, the patriotic poet threw himself into the Miluo river and drowned himself. Legends had it that in order to avoid the poet being consumed by fish, the local people made rice dumplings to throw into the river. They also went to the river with their boats searching for his body and scaring the fish from eating him, hence the birth of Dragon Boat racing.
You can read more on Duanwu_Festival – that is why we have Wikipedia I shall, however, entertain you with how to make Rice Dumplings as there are dozens of ways to do it. For the really adventurous, I am including one recipe in English and one in Chinese.
Now sit back and enjoy the feast through the pictures. If you have a local Chinese supermarket, or a good Chinese restaurant near you, treat yourself. Love it or hate it, you’ll remember the wonderful myths that come with it.
Zongzi (Chinese: 粽子) is a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice, stuffed with different fillings, and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. It is steamed or boiled.
Ingredients (20 Zongzi)
40 large dried bamboo leaves (2 for each)
20 long strings (for binding leaves)
1 kg sticky rice
2 kg pork belly, sliced into 3 cm (1″) cubes
10 salted duck’s egg yolks
40 small dried shiitake mushrooms
20 dried, shelled chestnuts
10 spring onions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2″) lengths
500 g dried radish
100 g very small dried shrimp
200 g raw, shelled peanuts (leave them out if you are allergic to nuts)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 star anise
1 teaspoon five spice powder
Soak rice in water for three hours, drain.
- Stir-fry pork for a few minutes. Add chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, star anise and five spice powder, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork and chestnuts from liquid and set aside.
- Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour).
- Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and trim stalks. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Stir-fry with a little liquid from pork stew.
- Halve duck egg yolks.
- Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic.
- Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant.
- Stir-fry shrimp for a few minutes.
- To a large wok or bowl, add rice, peanuts, radish, shrimp, spring onions, a little liquid from the stew mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well.
How to Wrap Zongzi
- Soak bamboo leaves in warm water for 5 minutes to tenderise,
- Take 2 leaves with leaf stem or spine facing out. Overlap them lengthwise in inverse directions (pointed end of one leaf facing the rounded end of the other).
- With both hands hold leaves to make a leaf pouch that you cup firmly in one hand.
- Add a small amount of rice mixture, compressing with a spoon.
- Add 1 piece each of pork, chestnut, mushroom, duck egg yoke.
- Add more rice until you have nearly a full pouch. Compress firmly with a spoon.
- Fold leaves over the open top of zongzi, then around to side until zongzi is firmly wrapped. Zongzi should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. Trim off any excess leaf with scissors.
- Tie up zongzi tightly just like shoes laces with a double knot.
- *Steam for 1 hour, unwrap and serve.
You can also follow this two-minute video instruction on YouTube
粽子 How to wrap Zongzi