Zongzi 粽子 or simply zong 粽 (pronounced 'Jong'), is a traditional Chinese food synonymous with the Dragon Boat Festival.
Made of sticky glutenous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped with bamboo or other large flat leaves. The fillings used for Zong Zi vary from region to region, but traditionally the fillings are a savory mixture of mung beans, chicken, shredded pork, chinese sausage, salted duck egg yolk, lotus seeds, water chestnuts and mushrooms. Some regions and modern modifications have since developed sweet dessert-like fillings such as dates, walnuts, taro and red bean.
Although Zong Zi can now be enjoyed all year round, Chinese people traditionally eat them during the Dragon Boat Festival to memorialize Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and minister who was famous for his patriotism. After being exiled by the King for not supporting his alliance with a powerful enemy state. In protest and despair, he drowned himself by jumping in the river. The local villagers, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him. When his body could not be found, they splashed the water with their paddles, beat drums and threw parcels of rice into the water so that it would keep evil spirits away and distract fish from eating his body.This is where the tradition of making Zong Zi originated from.
We stopped to admire these ladies making Zong Zi in the markets of Shek Kip Mei and were fascinated by the process, which goes a little something like this:
1) Prepare the glutinous rice and filling. This requires soaking the rice and bamboo leaves overnight.
2) Boil the bamboo leaves. Let cool and pat dry.
3) With three or four bamboo leaves on your palm, fold the leaves into a cone or pyramid-shaped container
4) Scoop the rice and filling onto the bamboo leaves.
5) Fold the leaves around the filling and secure with straw twine (which is the trickiest part!)
6) Once bundled up firmly, simmer or steam the Zong Zi for a few hours until they are ready to eat.
It is popular for families to make Zong Zi all together in preparations for the festival. However, we have trouble wrapping birthday presents... so we think we will leave it to the pros, as we have a feeling making these might be harder than it looks! We hope you tuck into a Zong Zi (or two!) and have a great time this Dragon Boat Festival!
Read more about Dragon Boat Festival here.