The Zòngzi recipe

Today it is the 5th of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This means that today for all Chinese is a special day of celebration. The day of the Dragon Boat Festival that is one of China’s cultural highlights.


This festival exists already for more than 2000 years and with this celebration day they honor Qu Yuan who was a famous Chinese poet and even a minister in ancient China. The period he lived in is also known as the Warring States Period. No history lesson about that in this blog post, but about a special kind of food they eat during this festival.

Rice Dumplings in Bamboo leaves. Copyright to Stephen Jack for the photo. Published on
The zòngzi special dumplings

Zòngzi is shortly said: rice dumplings packed in bamboo leaves. Though they eat this mostly during the Dragon Boat Festival, it seems like it is from Taiwanese originated. According to the website of Eating China where I found the delicious recipe of zòngzi.

You need many ingredients but the preparation – except for the rice – does not take too long.

The recipe according to (their copyright, see link above):

Makes 20 dumplings

  • 40 large dried bamboo leaves (2 for each zongzi)
  • 20 long strings (for binding leaves)
  • 1 kg (2.2 Ib) long grain sticky rice
  • 2 kg (4.4 Ib) pork belly, sliced into 3 cm (1″) cubes
  • 10 salted duck’s egg yolks
  • 40 small dried shiitake (black) mushrooms
  • 20 dried, shelled chestnuts
  • 10 spring onions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2″) lengths
  • 500 g (18 oz) dried radish
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) very small dried shrimp
  • 200 g (7 oz) raw, shelled peanuts (with skins)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine
  • Vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder

I am not that fond of garlic so maybe I would leave that one out. And I was wondering if sushi rice – Japanese but also sticky – would also do? Does someone know?

The cooking

The cooking of the rice and preparing does not take many steps, does only take a few hours. Three hours of cooking rice. Here are the steps of the preparing and cooking method they use.

  1. Soak rice in water for three hours, drain.
  2. Stir-fry pork for a few minutes. Add chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, star anise and five spice powder, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork and chestnuts from liquid and set aside.
  3. Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour).
  4. Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and trim stalks. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Stir-fry with a little liquid from pork stew.
  5. Halve duck egg yolks.
  6. Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic.
  7. Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant.
  8. Stir-fry shrimp for a few minutes.
  9. To a large wok or bowl, add rice, peanuts, radish, shrimp, spring onions, a little liquid from the stew mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well.
Wrap it up!

After all the preparing and the cooking of the rice – in Chinese way – it is time to wrap it all up. Wrap the zòngzi! This takes a few more steps…and after the wrapping: do not forget to steam the zòngzi for another hour.

  1. Soak bamboo leaves in warm water for 5 minutes to tenderise, before washing thoroughly in cold water.
  2. Wet strings to make them more pliable.
  3. Take 2 leaves with leaf stem or spine facing out. Overlap them lengthwise in inverse directions (pointed end of one leaf facing the rounded end of the other).
  4. With both hands hold leaves about 2/3rds of the way along their length. At that point bend them so that they are parallel lengthwise and also overlap. This should produce a leafpouch that you cup firmly in one hand.
  5. Add a small amount of rice mixture, compressing with a spoon.
  6. Add 1 piece each of pork, chestnut, mushroom, duck egg yoke.
  7. Add more rice until you have nearly a full pouch. Compress firmly with a spoon.
  8. Fold leaves over the open top of zongzi, then around to side until zongzi is firmly wrapped. Zongzi should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. Trim off any excess leaf with scissors.
  9. Tie up zongzi tightly just like shoes laces with a double knot. Normally they are tied to a bunch of zongzi.
  10. *Steam for 1 hour, unwrap and serve.
The difference between Chinese and Taiwanese way

There is a little but crucial difference if you want to make it in the southern Taiwanese way. They prefer to fry the rice as an extra step after you have soaked it in water. When the zòngzi is wrapped they prefer to boil it rather than an hour steaming.

Would a panda love to eat zòngzi?

Enjoy your dish! And happy Dragon Boat Festival day!

Greetings by Sophie

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