Homestay Tutors cooking zongzi in Shanghai!

Making Zongzi

粽子: zòngzi

A traditional snack eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival in early summer each year, Zongzi are sticky rice bundles wrapped in bamboo leaves. They have a wide range of fillings depending on the region of China – from savoury roast pork zongzi in Fujian province to sweet jujube and red bean zongzi in North Eastern China.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival (also known as the duanwu festival – 端午节 duānwǔjié) takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, typically around the summer solstice. The most popular activities during the festival are dragon boat racing and making zongzi.

There are several theories for the origin of the festival. One suggestion, rooted in ancient superstition, is that the festival aims to scare away evil spirits during the unlucky fifth month. Another, more popular, theory is that it commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan, who died by drowning himself in a river – the dragon boats and tasty snacks representing the people’s attempts to rescue him. Similar stories say that the festival is in memory of the politician Wu Zixu (died 484 BC) or shaman Cao E (died 144 AD), both of whom also died by drowning. Finally, some evidence suggest it was actually originally a traditional festival worshiping the dragon king, over which Confucianists superimposed a new festival celebrating Confucian martyrs to strengthen their influence. 

Recipe

Making zongzi is surprisingly simple, but does require some preparation! There are many different fillings and versions so do feel free to adapt this recipe according to your taste. Some examples include this simple red dates zongzi recipe, or this delicious savoury pork belly version.

Ingredients (for 10 zongzi)
30 bamboo leaves (2 per zongzi plus plenty spare in case they tear)

600 g glutinous rice
Filling (e.g. pork, salted egg yolk, mushrooms, red beans, jujube, etc.)
Kitchen string

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