July 16, 2012

Zong Zi Rice Dumpling 肉粽子

Zong Zi Rice Dumpling 粽子

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
By Published: 2012-07-16
Zong zi, I think, is love. A tender and lovingly wrapped package of pure love.  Find this hard to swallow?  Prove it to yourself by unwrapping and eating a zong zi, or 粽子, that is laboriously prepared by someone who loves you and see if you don't feel completely satisfied, happy, really loved after that deliriously aromatic, droolingly savory (or sweet) zong zi.  I know that I had that feeling often enough in my childhood, while happily eating the 粽子 that my dearest grandmother made just for us.  I truly believe, as taught to me first by Tita from the wonderful story Like Water for Chocolate, that the feelings and love that you have inside can be transmitted into the food that you cook and thereby to the people who eat your food.

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
A Traditional Paper Dragon Boat for kids
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Dragon Boat Festival, Qing Dynasty, 18th century
Even the historical events that began this great Chinese tradition of the Duanwu Dragon Boat Festival, or 端午節, and the making and eating of zong zi are seeped in love.  A loyal senior state office named Qu Yuan (340-278 BC) of the kingdom of Chu spoke out to his leader about his truthful views about how to lead the kingdom.  However, others were jealous of him and turned the leader against him.   Qu Yuan was banished and eventually the kingdom fell to outsiders.  Qu Yuan, in his grief, committed suicide by jumping into a river.  The common people loved Qu Yuan so much that they rowed out to try to find the body.  When they could not find it they wrapped rice with bamboo leaves and threw it into the river to distract the fishes from eating the body.  And thus began this now ancient yearly love memorial from the Chinese people:  the dragon boats racing through the rivers and the wrapping of the bamboo rice dumpling.  One wouldn't think the Chinese are this romantic, eh?

 duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Zong Zi - ready to eat!
My grandmother, or 奶奶, made these rice dumplings every year around the Dragon Boat Festival just as all traditional Chinese do. She would never let us help with making or wrapping the zong zi, ever, even though I did want to learn, until finally one time she was ill and I was staying with her for a while.  To get her mind off things I suggested that she teach me to make zong zi.  Wow... Next thing you know we were racing around town under her direct orders, buying 25 pound bags of glutinous rice and bamboo leaves and just loading up the trunk of the car with this and that.  Her energy just came back like that!  I had to really try to slow her down for fear of her overexerting herself.  And in the kitchen I felt like I was at boot camp - just endless commands and criticisms, her wrinkled fingers poking gingerly at this and that.  Nothing was good enough.  Then, at some point I realized (duh!) that we were making way more zong zi than we could ever eat and, chuckling, also realized why.  Grandmother was going to sell the fruits of our (well my) labor to make a buck or two!  You go Grandma!  Points scored again for the little old chinese lady!

I finally told her to slow down and let me learn.  But still in the end she couldn't take it any more and crabbily ordered me out of her kitchen.  Stubborn perfectionist, what can I say?  I'm probably going to be the same way myself when I'm old and crabby.  (Hey wait a minute, I'm already old and crabby!?)  But it was a great experience learning from the old pro herself.  By crook and nook, I managed to learn most of what I write about here today and can now proudly say that I can make delicious zong zi just like, well almost like, my dearest grandmother's.  You just have to make it with love, that's all.

Tip:  If you prefer sweet zong zi rather than savoury, check out my Grandma's Red Bean Paste Zong Zi recipe.  My personal favorite kind of zong zi!  Or if you like smaller sized zong zi, check out our  Mini Crystal Red Bean Zong Zi 水晶紅豆粽子 recipe.

Grandmother's Zong Zi Rice Dumpling Recipe
Makes 15 zong zi

Big soup pot

Ingredients 

560 g glutinous rice
40 dried bamboo leaves (larger size easier to wrap)
20 straw ties, or kitchen twine
200 g mung beans (green beans w/o the skin)
650 g pork belly, half meat, half fat
8 salted duck eggs(See our salted duck egg recipe here)
8 dried shitake mushrooms
8 dried scallops

Rice Marinade

1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce

Pork Belly Marinade

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine
2 star anise
4 slices ginger (quarter sized)
2 spring onions, chopped to 2" lengths

Directions:

Rinse the bamboo leaves and straw ties throughly in running water, then put in a large tub with hot water to soak for an hour or so.  When the water has cooled, check to see if the leaves are bendable.  If still stiff, refresh the tub with hot water and soak another hour.  Once the leaves are completely bendable without breakage they are ready to use.  Keep them soaking water until you use them.
duanwu,  粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Bamboo Leaves
duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Straw Ties
Rinse the rice and soak an hour in cool water.  Strain out water throughly then mix in light soy and dark soy.  Let marinate for another hour.  Soak the mung beans in cool water to cover for an hour then strain.
duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Glutinous Rice
duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Marinating Glutinous Rice
Slice the pork belly into 1/2" slices or, better yet, get your butcher to do it.  Mix in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for an hour or so.  Note here: you cannot substitute pork for pork fat.  It just won't work and you'll get a dried out tough piece of meat inside your zong zi instead of meltingly pull-apart pork and the fragrant taste of  pork fat infused through the whole dumpling.  Yes, pork fat is delicious, you betcha.  And zong zi is a once a year festival treat.  So go for it!  It's really delicious, I promise.    

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Marinating Pork Belly
Soak your dried mushrooms in boiling hot water (just barely cover). When the mushrooms are soft through, take them out, give them a squeeze to get rid of excess water and slice into quarters. Slice or break scallops in half.  Wash the black stuff off duck eggs, then break open the eggs and remove the hard yellow yolk inside, cut into halves and put aside.

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Salted Duck Eggs
duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Salted Duck Egg Yolks
duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Mung Beans
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Dried Scallops and Mushrooms
With all the prepared ingredients at hand, take two bamboo leaves and cut off the hard tips at the base.  Put them side by side, overlapping by 2" or so (depends on your leaf size).  It should feel structurally like one leaf and not two.  Fold the base up by around 3-4" and then immediately fold in the right hand side of leaf structure by approx 2.5" to create a sturdy little pocket as per the photo below.

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Bamboo Leaves folded into bottom pocket
Holding this pocket together with one hand, use the other hand to scoop 3 tbsp rice into the pocket, spreading it out 3" from the base up.  Then you can pile on 2-3 pieces of pork (making sure each dumpling has pork fat in it), halved salted egg, 2 quarters of mushrooms and halved scallop.

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Zong Zi fillings
On top of all this heap 2-3 tbsp mung beans from the bottom (end nearest you) of zong zi upwards.  Finally add 2-3 more tbsp rice to the top (end furthest from you) of the zong zi.  All the fillings except for the mung bean should now be covered by either rice or mung bean.  (Mung bean is suppose to be seen as part of the outside of the zong zi)

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Cover with Mung Beans and Rice
Now comes the tricky part.  (I can hear my Grandma yelling at me for my clumsiness already.  "NO, NO, that's not right!  Just let me do it!  You go and watch TV or something, whatever.")  Hold zong zi longwise from your body.  Fold over right bit of bamboo leaf (sticking out beyond your fillings) snuggly over the fillings, then fold left bit of bamboo leaf over that and tuck it under your thumb as per the photo below.  Try to get a snug fit of leaves over fillings, not packed but snug.  Do not squeeze the zong zi  while you're holding it or else the rice will come out packed and sticky instead of fluffy. Gentle cradling is the operative word here, I think.

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Fold over Bamboo Leaves to cover filling
You should have enclosed all the zong zi fillings and rice with this last fold.  Now you will only have a the remaining tip of the bamboo leaf (sticking towards you at this point) to fold.  Grab it and pull slightly to create snug fit.  Pinch the leaves together along the bottom edge of zong zi and fold upwards and tuck again under your thumb.  The dumpling should be completely wrapped by the bamboo leaves now.  Use scissor to cut off any protruding leaf tips or just tuck them under.

Grab a tie or string with your free hand.  Wrap around the top of the zong zi once and tie a knot.  Then wrap the straw tie (or string) around and around as snuggly as you can, again not squeezing the zong zi to death at any time, until you reach the bottom and then tie off with another secure knot.  Cut off any loose ends and you have wrapped your zong zi!

New:  We have made a video showing the wrapping of the zong zi!  Hope you like it!




Tips: Don't panic if you find it hard at first.  I certainly flailed in the beginning, having to redo or worse yet, having made really ugly zong zi.  But you will see that the logic of the fold will come through and soon you will be making better and better shapes as you go.  The main idea is to completely wrap the zong zi within the leaves.  And for the tying, I sometimes used my teeth to help hold the tension while tying the knots.  It will all be worth it in the end though because zong zi are so yummy delicious when homemade, way, way better than any store bought or restaurant ones!

duanwu, 粽子, recipe, zong zi, zongzi, zhong zi, zhongzi, rice dumpling, chinese dragon boat festival
Zong Zi tied with Straw Ties
The final step is the cooking.  Get your biggest pot.  We have a huge one about a foot and quarter tall that we use for soup making.  Pack all your zong zi in and cover with water.  Boil at medium high heat for 3 hours.  You can eat at once (yum, yum!) or you can let cool and store in the fridge for  a week.  If you are planning to eat them slowly, freeze them at once.  To eat again, take out of fridge and boil in water for 12 minutes, or out of the freezer and boil for 25 minutes (no need to defrost, just stick in water and heat up).  Enjoy your Zong Zi Love!


More Festive recipes at The Hong Kong Cookery:

chinese, fold, how to, mini, recipe, Rice Dumping, Wrap, zong zi, zongzi, 包法, 微型, 粽子, 迷你How to Wrap Mini Zong Zi Rice Dumping 迷你粽子包法

chinese, dragon boat festival, duanwu, recipe, red bean paste, zong zi recipe, zongzi, 粽子, 豆沙粽子, 紅豆沙Grandma's Red Bean Paste 紅豆沙

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make your own mooncake recipeMid Autumn Festival- Making Your Own Mooncake
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4 comments:

  1. Looks so delicious! And I would like to taste some on the coming Dragon boat festival on early June! The typical fillings for zongzi is pork + green bean as well as rice in southern China

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  2. Thank you for the recipe! Been struggling to find hong kong style zong to buy. My parents always told me it's so labourous to make but never told me how to make. Your grandma's recipe looks amazing! She'd be proud of you. Would love to give your recipe a go this week!

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    Replies
    1. Hi SCLC - it sure is a labor of love...however really truly more delicious homemade than store bought. Hope you give it a go! ~ellen

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