Rice Dumpling, or, “joong” in Cantonese and “zongzi” in Mandarin, is a traditional Chinese rice dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped bamboo leaves. Traditionally, rice dumplings are enjoyed during the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
The story of how the Dragon Boat Festival ("Tuen Ng" in Cantonese) and the customs of eating rice dumplings came about can be traced back to as far as 278BC.
Legend has it that patriotic poet Qu Yuan from the Kingdom of Chu, who also served as a minister to the emperor, was exiled for opposing the alliance of a much bigger kingdom called Qin. When Qu found out that Chu was overthrown by Qin, and the emperor was captured and eventually died in a foreign land, his grief was so profound that he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the 5th of May.
Moved by Qu’s integrity and patriotism, the locals would race out in their boats to look for his body, and drop sticky rice balls into the river so the fish would not feed on his body. To honour Qu Yan, the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar was marked as the Dragon Boat Festival thereafter, where eating rice dumplings and watching dragon boat races became the customs on this day.
Cantonese Style of Dumplings use belly pork as the main ingredient, making a soft, little bit oily pork fillings of a dumpling.
Basic ingredients of Dragon Boat Festival Dumplings:
- Glutinous rice 600g
- 75g peeled mung beans
- 30 pieces bamboo leaves
- 12 saltwater plants
- 3 mushrooms
- Pork belly 225g
- 6 salted eggs
Seasoning for Pork Belly :
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp wine
Seasoning for Glutinous Rice:
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp oil
- Marinate pork belly with seasonings, set aside.
- Wash the glutinous rice and mung beans, soak them for 2 hours, remove the water, and mix in the rice seasoning.
- After rinsing the bamboo leaves, soak them and the salt water plants in hot water for about two hours until they are soft. Remove and pat dry before trimming heads and tails.
- Cut the legs of the mushrooms, soak them until soft, and cut them into pieces.
- Peel the salted eggs and take the egg yolks.
Making the Dumplings!
- Take out 2 bamboo leaves, and fold them into 3 corners at the top.
- Then add 1 tablespoon of glutinous rice, 1 tablespoon of mung beans, then add mushrooms, pork belly, salted egg, and finally add 4 tablespoons of glutinous rice.
- Take out the other 2 bamboo leaves, cover all the ingredients and fold two ends to the centre.
- Wrap them into a dumpling shape with 2 knotted salt water plants.
- Put the dumplings in boiling water and cook for 3 hours.
- Be careful to add boiling water regularly to ensure that the boiling water soaks the dumplings.
- Take it out and let it cool before eating.