Zongzi, Chinese sticky rice dumpling or sometimes called as Chinese tamales, go hand in hand with the Dragon Boat Festival (also known as the Duanwu festival, usually celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar). This year, our Duanwu festival falls on 9th this July. That’s why I am bringing this easy Zongzi (or Zhongzi too )recipe.
If you are familiar with Chinese cuisine, you will find most holiday foods share the same ingredients—sticky rice (glutinous rice). Zongzi is primarily made with sticky rice along with other fillings which can be sweet ( red beans, red bean paste ) or savory sweet ( five spice pork belly, mung beans egg yolk).
Other dishes made with sticky rice
- Small Sticky Rice Balls over Mango Smoothie
- Thai Sticky Rice Recipe with Mango
- Chinese Sticky Rice Recipes-Two Ways
- Sticky Rice Balls–Nuomici
- Siu Mai Recipe (Shao Mai) with Sticky Rice
- Glutinous Rice Ball with Crushed Peanuts
- Sesame Balls-Jian Dui
- Tang Yuan Recipe-Black Sesame Filling
- Snow Skin Mooncake-Video Recipe with Custard Filling
- Homemade Nian Gao
Zongzi is wrapped with large flat leaves including bamboo leaves or reeds. In China, it is very easy to get those naturally fragrant leaves but this task might be a little difficult outside China. However you may find dried bamboo leaves in Asian markets. After soaking, they work the same but the video skips the step because I use fresh bamboo leaves from my grandma.
- We have long celebrated Duanwu by eating Zongzi and racing on dragon boats, and now it is an official holiday in China. Younger generations learn how to make zongzi from the older generations. Chinese zongzi, depending where you go in China, zongzi can vary in shape, filling, and how the rice is prepared. However, I just learned of a new trend in China from my mother in law, to drain the sticky rice after washing, which creates a compact structure and chewy texture. For those who love a softer texture, pre-soak the sticky rice for 30 minutes to 1 hour. However do not soak them overnight.
Please check out the video about how to wrap a zongzi.
I use fresh large bamboo leaves, but if you use dried ones, pre-soak them overnight. And if your leaves are narrow and small, overlay 2 or 3 of them together to achieve a similar size. You do not need to consider the appearance very much just make sure they are well-sealed. This wrapping method is shown by my mother-in law.
- 500 g sticky rice
- red bean paste as needed ,around 1 tablespoon for each zongzi
- large bamboo leaves ,each around 10cm wide and 45cm to 50cm long or overnight soaked dried ones
- cotton line ,twine works better than string for me
- kitchen scissor
Rinse sticky rice 2 or 3 times and then drain. For a softer texture, you can pre-soak the rice for half an hour.
If you are using dried bamboo leaves, soak them overnight until softened. The bamboo leaves can be quite dirty, so carefully wash them with a kitchen cloth 2 or 3 times. Then soak for around 30 minutes until softened and cut the tough ends off.
Prepare everything and ready to wrap (I owe this method to my mother-in-law)
For larger leaves (around 8-10 cm wide and 45 cm long), fold 1/3 of the leaf into a cone, making sure not to leave an opening at the bottom. Fill the cone up half-way with sticky rice and then scoop around 1 tablespoon of red bean paste (or more if you prefer). Then cover the red bean paste with another layer of rice.
Holding the closed cone in one hand , wrap the remaining length of bamboo leaf around the top to form a lid. Hold the lid down and then fix one end with one hand, wrap the extra leave around the other end. Seal the sticky rice dumpling and tie with cotton line. Repeat to finish all of the zongzi.
Transfer all the rice dumplings to a large pressure cooker or regular pot and add enough water to cover. Set aside to soak for 1 hour.
If you are using a high pressure cooker, cook for around 1.5 hours. For a regular pot, bring the water to boil for 15 minutes and then turn down the heat and simmer for 3 hours. Then turn off the heat with the lid removed and let the rice dumplings cool down naturally in the pot.
The traditional Chinese serving way is to dip the zongzi in sugar, but you can also drizzle honey on surface.
For a smaller batch, you can place them fridge for 2 days. For a larger batch, freeze them after boiling and then re-heat before serving. With this method, the rice dumplings can be kept for two weeks.
I highly recommend you make smaller ones and do not eat too many in one setting, as sticky rice might need a long to digest.
To serve: to follow a traditional Chinese way, you can dip the sticky rice dumpling in sugar.
Or drizzle some lemon honey or pure honey on top to sweeten it.
Happy dragon boat festival!