-make yourself the yum Chinese rice dumplings (you can think of them as “Chinese tamales”)
I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite festival foods- Chinese rice dumplings. This is always on my comfort food list, although usually, they are not common foods that restaurants will sell daily since it is not so easy to make, every year in the summertime, the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午節) is the day! But why? Why Dragon Boat festival related to these yummy rice dumplings?
Here is a legend behind it: back to 300 BCE, one of the most beloved and admired poet and ministers, Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu, voluntary spoke the truth on a political issue, however, this was against the will of the king.
Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, enemies captured the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him, or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat the rice instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi 粽子.
After knowing this story, would you be more interesting to know how to make it now? Below is the recipe and a video of how to wrap the perfect zongzi!
Serve 2-8 people, make about 25 small zongzi
preparation time: 3 hours, cooking time: approximately: 40 mins
5 cup glutinous rice (sticky rice)
1 cup dried baby shrimp
15-20 dried shiitake mushrooms, Slice it or cut it half
1 cup dried raw peanuts (optional)
1 cup chestnuts (optional)
1 lb pork belly
25 duck yolks
25-50 small scallops or big one then dice it
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup and 3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons crystal sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
4 tablespoon rice wine (can replace with white wine)
1 cup dried shallots (can buy premade)
For wrapping you will need:
25-50 dried bamboo leafs
one roll of cotton rope
*One night before cooking. Clean all the bamboo leaves, dry it and put a heavy stuff or stone on the leaves, this will prevent the leaves dried unevenly.
You will need 3 hours to prepare before cooking. First, wash the rice and soak all the rice in clean water for 3 hrs. Second, soak the dried mushrooms in clean water (Do not throw away the water, will use some in the stir-fry the rice).
Clean the pork belly, then boil some water in a pot, cook the pork belly for 10 mins. take it out, cool it down then dice or slice it. take a bowl and put the rice wine, 3 tablespoon soy sauce, and some five-spice powder, blend it well and immerse all the pork belly.
*If you cannot find premade dried shallots, you can buy fresh shallots 1 lb, peel it and cut the bottoms, slice it all. Put it evenly on an oven pan, bake it 20 mins with 350F/150C degree, take it out, stir it nicely and put it back to the oven, bake it with 310F/140C degree for 30 mins. take it out again then stir it see if there are slightly gold, and looks crispy, put it back to bake the third time with 265F/120C degree. It should be good after three times baking. If the third time still not good enough, it may be the cutting is too thick, then stir it and put it back, bake with 230F/100C for another 20 mins.
Step 1: Rinse the rice after 3 hours soaking, put it all into a rice cooker or anything you cook rice with, but no need to add water in the rice, put the peanuts on top of the rice. Cook for 30 mins.
Step 2: Put some oil then the minced garlic, stir fry it for about 3 mins then put all the pork in, stir-fried it with medium fire, until it has evenly brown color about 5-7 mins. Adding all the mushroom in, and all the dried baby shrimps, stir fry it about 3 mins. Adding ½ cup of soy sauce, half of the dried shallots, 1 tablespoon crystal sugar, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1 tablespoon five-spice powder, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 70cc water from soaking mushroom, then stir-fry them all nicely for about 3 mins. Take out all the ingredients, you don’t need to clean the pot, use the same for the following steps.
Step 3: With the left sauce in the pot, adding the half cup soy sauce, the half part dried shallots and about 100mls water from soaking dried mushrooms with slim fire. Put all the cooked rice into the pot (it may be not easy since the rice getting sticky, you can put it slowly) stir them all nicely until it all have beautiful even color on.
Take one or two leaves (if the leaf is too small you can add one or two more), overlapping about ⅘ length, then bend it in half, making a scoop shape. Put a little bit rice at the bottom, add the cooked pork and mushroom, 1-2 scallops, one duck yolk, chestnut if you like, then put some more rice to cover them all. Bend the leaf down, and give it a little bit press to secure the shape. Folding the left leaf to side, take the cotton rope and wrap it two rounds, make a tie and cut the rope. Below is the video for this process. you may feel it is not easy at the beginning, believe me, you are not alone! I was tried many times until I really got it, and the first few zongzi are not as beautiful as the others are very common, but practice will make it perfect!
How to eat:
You have to steam it at least 30 mins. The way we do is the simplest, just put them in a big bowl then put them all in a rice cooker, add 1 cup of water in the cooker, 30mins later you can enjoy it!
Zongzi itself has a pretty strong flavor, you can eat them solo, or if you want to try a little bit of fusion you can get premade Jalapeno and lime sauce, or the Chinese sweet and spicy sauce. These two are pretty good to go with in my opinion.
If you plan not to eat zongzi in a short time, I will suggest to put them in frozen. But put it to refrigerator one night before eating it.
Zongzi is actually a very freestyle dish, you can add some other ingredients you like, this year I introduce the traditional one, which is from my hometown- north Taiwan. There are many other styles and flavors of zongzi in China and Taiwan. Maybe I will make some other style in the next year! I wish you enjoy this recipe! Please feel free to tell me your opinions and share with me the zongzi you may have in Asia or other countries! Have a nice weekend to you all and Happy dragon boat festival to all my Taiwanese friends!