China’s Dragon Boat Festival is almost here, most importantly, meaning you guys will have 3 days holiday! For those who don’t know the story behind these much needed days off from work, the DragonBoat Festival came about to memorize famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, who was a loyal minister of the King of Chu in the third century BCE.
Qu Yuan’s wisdom and intellectual ways antagonized other court officials, thus they accused him of false charges of conspiracy and was exiled by the king. During his exile, Qu Yuan composed many poems to express his anger and sorrow towards his sovereign and people.
Later, following a rival dynasty’s capture of the Chu capital, Qu Yuan drowned himself by attaching a heavy stone to his chest and jumping into the Miluo River in 278 BCE at the age of 61. The people of Chu tried to save him believing that Qu Yuan was an honorable man; they searched desperately in their boats looking for Qu Yuan but were unable to save him. The Chu people threw Zongzi into river to feed fish, to ensure that the fish wouldn’t instead resort to eating Qu Yuan'sbody.
Zongzi is a popular food nationwide all over China, but the flavors, shapes, fillings and cooking methods vary a lot between different regions. In general, Northern ones have a sweet flavor with vegetables, dried fruits and nuts as fillings, while southern ones are likely fatty and salted with different kinds of meat as stuffing.
As the representative in Northern cities, Beijing Zongzi are smaller compared to the ones in Southern areas. The bundles are usually in a pyramid shape, and the fillings are usually beans, dates and lotus seeds. Meat is seldom used as an ingredient, so most of them have a sweet flavor.
Lotus Seeds Zongzi
With a strong flavor, Shanghai Zongzi have a great variety of ingredients, such as fresh meat, mushroom, chestnut, yolk, roast duck and red beans. The vegetarian ones sold by Godly Restaurant are a good choice, providing a wide range of fillings like mushroom Zong, sweet bean paste Zong and pine nut rice Zong. The beef Zong provided by Hongchangxing Halal Restaurant is a highlight, surpassing other Muslim Zongzi eateries. As an alternative option, Shendacheng always invents the most unique tastes and flavors, such as curry chicken Zong.
Actually, there is no big difference between the cooking method in Xian and the North. With fillings of jujubes and osmanthus syrup, it has a mouthwatering aroma. Use a string or a bamboo knife to cut the bundles into slices, and then soak them in honey, for a sweet and tender snack.
Red Jujube Zongzi
Wrapped with phrynium leaves, it a larger option, weighing about half a kilogram on average. Most of them are meat bundles with fillings like yolk, pork, salted fish and chicken wings. Uniquely, the sticky rice is usually soaked in straw ash water, which adds a pleasant scent.
Zongzi in Canton is the representative style in Southern China, and most of them come in pyramid shape, but usually smaller than the ones in Northern areas. Fillings of fresh meat, red bean paste and egg yolk are popular. There is also an assorted type with a mixture of diced chicken, duck, pork, mushroom or green beans.
Yellow Bean Pork Zongzi
Egg Yolk Zongzi
Braised pork and soda water Zong are the two most popular ones in Xiamen and Quanzhou, the major cities of Fujian. The former usually uses braised pork, mushroom and shrimp and lotus seeds as extra fillings. The latter’s cooking procedure is much simpler. Put the rice bundles in the soda water and steam them thoroughly, which gives a softer and smoother taste.
Dried Scallop Zongzi
Jiaxing Zongzi are highly sought after during the Dragon Boat Festival. In a triangular pyramid shape, the most commonly seen ones have sweet bean paste, fresh meat, lotus seed, longan and peanut. The difference is that some fatty meat will be mixed into the fillings, so that it will look a brilliant yellow with oil cooked out of the pork after a couple of hours’ boiling. The result is a delicious taste of fat, without being greasy.
Red Bean Zongzi
Smoked Port & Egg Yolk Zongzi
New Style Zongzi
Purple Rice Zongzi
Mixed Grain Zongzi
Zong Zi Making Guide:
1. Prepare the ingredients: sticky rice, bamboo or reed leaves, and some filings like red dates, meat and beans.
2. Wash the rice, and then boil the rice for 15-20 mins, or soak the rice in water for 2 hours.
3. Wash the leaves, and soak them in boiling waters for 5 mins, and then cool it in water.
4. Fold one or two leaves into a cone-shaped fossa, and use a spoon to fill with rice and other ingredients - the fillings should not be too much. Then wrap and tie it with strings or boiled straws.
5. Put the Zongzi in the boiling pot and keep them fully submerged in water.
6. After 2-3 hours' boiling, put them in water to cool for eating.