Last weekend was 端午节 duanwujie (Dragon Boat Festival) in China. The traditional food that is eaten for the festival is called 粽子 ‘zongzi’. Basically, it’s glutinous rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf. The filling can vary, and it’s often red bean paste, fruit or meats. And to be honest I don’t really like them. So, I decided to set out to make my own! Inspired by a recent holiday to Thailand, I added some fresh, light Thai flavours.
I found the history of zongzi and a how-to recipe in my fav Chinese culture magazine, The World of Chinese (2010 Issue 3). Zongzis have been a traditional food in China for thousands of years, but they only became famous about 2000 years ago. Qu Yuan wrote romantic poems about his love for his motherland. He wrote to his leaders to urge them to fight against the Qin rule. When the Qins took over, Qu Yuan threw himself into a river in despair. The local people threw zongzis in the river to stop the fish from eating his body, and then took boats out to retrieve his body, starting Dragon Boat Festival.
I headed off to the supermarket to find the needed ingredients. I tried my best to find them by myself, but I had to ask in the end! They were hiding right in the corner behind the rice!
I started by soaking the bamboo leaves for a few hours. They take on a lovely fragrance when they’ve absorbed a lot of water.
The rice is called 糯米 ‘nuomi’. It’s very shortgrain glutinous rice.
I soaked the rice in coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger for a few hours.
I decided to pick some fillings that I personally like! I went with dried pineapple to complement the coconut flavours and some dried cranberries.
One complete zongzi! The shape varied depending the leaf. This was one of the prettiest! The longer the leaf, the best triangle shape was able to be made.
I started by making a funnel shape and filled it with the soaked rice and dried fruit. Then, I folded the leaf around on itself to get the best triangle shape.
I thought they looked pretty cool in the end!
Then, I boiled them in a mix of coconut milk and water for 2 and a half hours.
The final product was steaming, hot and delicious!
When I make them again, I think I will steam them to try and concentrate the coconut flavour. They are a very satisfying snack. You get covered in sticky, gooey rice and can then lick your fingers just like a kid! I think there’s definitely potential to make these sweeter with condensed milk, brown sugar, chocolate… Endless possibilities!