History and Art of Zongzi

… or the the chinese called it 端午节(Duan Wu Jie) is on 31 May this year or 5th month and 5th day on the lunar calendar. One of the saying is that this festival is to remember 屈原 (Qu Yuan).

Read the Folklore on how this festival came about here.

To add on, why dragon head are used and not others;
The dragon is a mythical monster in fairy tales and legends. For a long time the dragon stood for evil. Tales of serpent monsters roaming the earth devouring everything in their paths have been recorded for centuries. However, the Chinese adopted the dragon as a symbol of nobility. Until 1912, the dragon was the national emblem of China. Many Chinese consider the dragon a god, one to be worshipped. Therefore, dragons appear in every area of Chinese culture. The dragon has always played a major role in Chinese literature. Children’s books are full of the legendary appearances of dragons and, frequently the dragon is found helping a poor or unfortunate victim overcome his enemies. During Dragon Boat Festival, giant heads of the serpent, decorated with fierce markings are painted on the front of the boat, helping the crew to victory.

On Dragon Boat Festival, parents also need to dress their children up with a perfume pouch. They first sew little bags with colorful silk cloth, then fill the bags with perfumes or herbal medicines, and finally string them with silk threads. The perfume pouch will be hung around the neck or tied to the front of a garment as an ornament. They are said to be able to ward off evil.

Back to the Art of Making Zongzi. Each region of China has its own special form of zongzi. For example, in southern China you will find Savory versions that may have Chinese sausage (xiang chang), Chinese ham, Chinese dried “bacon” (la rou), chestnuts, dried mung beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, and salty duck egg yolks packed in the middle.

Meanwhile, Beijing zongzi is the Sweet and plain version to be be dipped in sugar or honey prior to eating for an instant sweet treat. Sugar and whole red beans may also be mixed with the rice prior to being wrapped. This method creates a sweet and colorful zongzi. Sweetened red bean paste, dried Chinese dates, nuts, or fruit jams packed into the center can also be used to liven up zongzi. There is also plain zongzi or the hockkien called it kijang, made only with glutinous rice + alkaline water and to be eaten with kaya, honey or sugar.

Zongzi can be many shapes, but the most common shape is pyramidal or triangular.

Making zongzi is a difficult proposition. Even experienced Chinese cooks find it a challenge to manipulate the bamboo leaves into a funnel shape and place the rice inside. But if you want to try, here are a recipe to help you celebrate this truly unique event.


Long glutinous rice
Pork (I prefered with lots of fats!)
Dried mushrooms
Salted egg yolks
Soy sauce
Chinese five-spice
Borad Bamboo Leaves


Wash sticky (glutinous) rice and soak for three hours.

Chop pork into 4cm long and 2cm wide strips.

Soak mushrooms until tender, remove stems and cut into strips.

Mix soy sauce, Chinese five-spice, salt, and sugar. Let pieces of pork and mushrooms soak in above mixture for two hours.

Cut salted egg yolks in halves.

Thoroughly clean soaked and softened bamboo leaves and string.

Shape two long bamboo leaves into a funnel shape using one third of the length of the leaves. Fill the funnel half with rice and half with pieces of pork, mushroom, and egg yolk.
Cover the “funnel” with additional rice, and then wrap the mixture tightly with the remaining portion of the leaves.

Tie string around zong zi and cook in a covered steamer over medium heat for two hours.

Please note that making zongzi takes a great deal of patience and free time.

Of course the art of eating the zongzi is straight from the bamboo leaf. Try them yourself if you don’t believe me.

2 Hijackers »

  1. Selena said,

    May 27, 2006 @ 2:50 am

    of course, the chang that we bought from the fridge compartment of Wing Yip Supermarket (microwave for 7 minutes & makan) surely cannot compare to homemade ones! 🙁
    plus cut throat at £2.75 each 🙁 🙁
    but we ate them anyway 🙂

  2. Hijack Queen » Happy Duan Wu Jie aka Dumpling Festival said,

    June 19, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    […] Last year, I wrote a super duper long entry on the folklore as how the festival came by. […]

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