How to make zongzi chinese tamales

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

From the kickoff of the World Cup in Brazil, to Wimbledon Championships, to NBA and Stanley Cup final, this June is one of the most exciting month for the sports fans around the world.

Ah, let’s also not forget the annual Dragon Boat Festival aka Duanwu Festival (端午節) , an annual sporting event and culinary festival that’s widely celebrated in every 5th day of the 5th month off the traditional lunar calendar.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

The reason I get excited about Dragon Boat Festival is because of zongzi, a popular dish served around this holiday (and available year-round in China and Chinese supermarkets overseas).

For the uninitiated, Zongzi 粽子, aka Chinese sticky rice dumpling, or Chinese tamale, is a bamboo leaf wrapped dumpling filled with sticky rice and other savory or sweet ingredients. It shares a lot of similarities with tamale and it’s got quite a bit of history behind it (read up the legend here).

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

Growing up in China, I always looked forward to Dragon Boat Festival because that’s the only day of the year I’d have chance to eat zongzi made by my grandmother. Every year, grandma would start to prepare the zongzi a day or two before the festival. On the day of the festival, all the grandkids would gather around and help her fill up the dumplings. When the dumplings were finally cooked, all of us kids would rush to un-wrap that tender and delicious goodness and dig right in.

Today, with almost every Chinese grocery store carries it in the frozen food section. Getting zongzi cannot be easier, however, making your own zongzi is actually not as intimating as you might think (that is if you follow the step by step recipe below).

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

Before I turn over to Mrs. YiReservation who will be demonstrating the recipe, I just would like to point out that there are many regional variations on how zongzi is made. Depending on the region, you’ll come across zongzi made in different shapes with a wide range of filling ingredients.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

This particular Cantonese style zongzi recipe is based on a recipe from Mrs. YiReservation’s mom. It’s packed with rich and savory ingredients such as pork belly, scallops and salted egg yolks. However, the filling is highly customizable so feel free to adjust to your own liking!

For the love of Cooking

One of the famous festivals in China is Dragon Boat festival (端午節). This festival commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (屈原) who died on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Like other Chinese festivals, there is also a legend behind it. You can read the long story online and learn why Dragon boat racing and eating Zongzi have become the central customs of the festival.

This year, the festival falls on June 12 and I can see a lot of Chinese people at the market getting ingredients to make Zongzi. Zongzi (also called Zong) has different shapes and various fillings and the main ingredients are sticky rice, green beans, fresh meat and salted duck egg yolk. People also added red beans, dried shrimp, peanuts, chestnuts, Chinese sausages, shiitake mushrooms etc. I have made these Zongzi for many years (only once a year though) and I’m sharing my mom’s secret recipe today. Every year she makes a lot and gives them to friends, relatives and neighbours. Her Zongzi were fabulous and never disappointed anyone!

Ingredients (makes 20 Zongzi) :

5 lbs
2 bags (14oz each)
10
2 pounds
11 oz
7 oz
1 bag (14oz)
20
3 ½ Tbsp
6 Tbsp
Sticky rice (Glutinous rice) (糯米)
Peeled split mung bean (去皮開邊綠豆)
Salted Duck Egg Yolks (halved) (咸蛋黃)
Pork belly
Peanuts
Miniature dried shrimp
Bamboo leaves (荷葉)
Long strings
Salt
Vegetable oil

Marinate for Meat :

1 teaspoon
2-3
1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
4 Tbsp
Salt
Red fermented beancurd (南乳)
Light soy sauce
Water
Five spice powder (五香粉)
  1. Cut pork belly into approx. 1.5” cubes and marinate with 1 teaspoon of salt for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, mash the red fermented beancurd and add light soy sauce and water, mix well.
  2. Heat the wok with 1 tablespoon of oil and stir in the beancurd mixture, add pork belly and stir fry until the meat gets a nice coat of the sauce – about 5 minutes (the meat is not completely cooked). When the meat is cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. After the meat is marinated overnight, take it out from the fridge, roughly rinse off the beancurd mixture and pad dry. Sprinkle about 4 tablespoons of five spice powder and mix well. The pork pieces should have a nice coat of powder, add more if necessary. Set aside.
  4. Soak rice in water for 4 hours, drain.
  5. Add 3 ½ tablespoons of salt and 6 tablespoons of oil to the rice, mix well (taste the rice, add more salt if necessary). Set aside.
  6. Soak Green mung beans in water for 2 hours, drain and set aside.
  7. Wash dried shrimp, pad dry and set aside.
  8. Boil a pot of hot water and put the bamboo leaves in, soak for 20 minutes. Wash each one with a brush.
  9. Wrap ingredients with bamboo leaves (see instructions below). Boil Zongzi for 4 hours.

These are all the ingredients you will need:

If leaves are very dirty, you may want to use a clean brush to brush each leaf. After washing and boiling the bamboo leaves, choose two large ones, make a small cross with the leaves. Bend and twist the leaves in the center to make a funnel shape (see pictures below).

Fill the funnel shape with a few tablespoons of sticky rice, top with a sprinkling of mung beans. Add meat, egg yolk, peanuts, dried shrimp, etc. Now the ingredients are heavy enough to hold the funnel shape, add one leaf to each side and top with more sticky rice, mung beans, peanuts and dried shrimp (the meat and the egg yolk should be in the middle part of the Zongzi). The mound should be generous but not overflowing. Carefully fold the sides in over the mixture (folding both sides first), then fold the bottom over. (see pictures below)

Now you fold the top leaf flap downwards to make a package. Take a long string and wrap the Zongzi firmly.

Place Zongzi in a large pot and fill the pot with water (water should cover all Zongzi), cover and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for four hours. You will need to check the water level, add water as necessary.

  • The pork belly should have some fat, do not trim the fat. The meat will be too dry if it’s all lean.
  • I left one ingredient out (紅絲線 aka 紅藍) which is Chinese herb. I just couldn’t find it in the States, probably sold in Asia only.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

We went to May May Food on Pell Street to pick up some steamed vegetable buns when this display caught our eye. Chinese-style tamales?

How to make zongzi chinese tamalesAccording to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, tamales are “an important feature of Mexican food and date back to pre-Columbian times. A specially prepared cornmeal dough, usually stuffed with something but something cooked ‘blind’, is steamed inside little (or not so little) package of carefully trimmed corn husks or similar wrapping such as banana leaf.” So the tamale comparison certainly works: A Chinese “tamale,” or zongzi (or joong), is filled with glutinous rice and a stuffing (savory like pork or sweet like sweetened red bean paste), wrapped in bamboo leaves. Tied with a string, they are steamed or boiled and traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival.

You may have seen and/or eaten nor my gai, a lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice filled with things like chicken, vegetables, pork, or shrimp, at dim sum in Chinatown. Nor my gai is the “Cantonese style tamale”, usually steamed because the lotus leaf delicately wraps around the rice.

MayMay sells a variety of zongzi as well as other dumplings and dim sum favorites. And here’s a San Francisco Chronicle article about zongzi, with some great pictures and a recipe.

Our favorite zongzi usually fall on the savory side of the palate, which ones do you like?

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How to Make the Best Chinese Rice Dumplings (Joong)

Cooking with Alison’s Grandma (Part 4 of 4)

‘Joong’ or Chinese rice dumplings have also been called Chinese tamales. My grandma makes the best joong in the world. I can’t eat other peoples’ or restaurants’ joong, because nothing comes close to grandma’s joong. So I was very happy when she agreed to teach me how to make them. It takes a lot of work and the preparation starts days in advance, but her recipe makes 32 and they can be frozen for future meals.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

The first joong that I ever wrapped.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

The first joong that I ever wrapped.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

This photo was taken after we had already started eating the joong. Note that they don’t come out of the wrapping broken like this.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

This is how my grandma sets up her kitchen twine so that she can easily pull out more string as she wraps her joong.

Joong (Chinese Rice Dumpling) Recipe

makes 32; adapted from Alison’s grandma

5 pounds long grain glutinous rice (‘lo mai fan’)

3 to 4 dried bamboo leaves per joong, so at least 96 total

32 uncooked salted duck/chicken eggs, yolks only (see recipe here)

32 pieces of boneless pork belly with the rind on, approximately 1 1/2 pounds, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices which are then cut into 3/4 inch wide pieces (Note: In Chinese, this cut of meat is called ‘five flower meat’ because it should contain 3 layers of fat and 2 layers of meat.)

8 Chinese sausages (lap cheong), cut in half lengthwise and then cut in half crosswise, yielding 32 pieces total

1 1/2 pounds of shelled and peeled raw peanuts

1/2 pound Chinese dried shrimp

coarse Kosher sea salt

Four days ahead of time, wash the bamboo leaves under cool running water and then boil them until the colour of the leaves turns very green. Then soak the leaves in water at room temperature for 4 days. Replace the soaking water with fresh water once a day. On the day of assembly, use a cloth or paper towel to wipe the leaves clean.

Three days ahead of time, massage a few pinches of salt into the pieces of pork belly. Keep the salted pork belly in the refrigerator, covered, until the day of assembly.

On the day of assembly: Place the rice in a very large rice cooker with enough water to reach a level of 1/2 inch above the rice. Soak the rice for 2 hours and then cook it until soft using the rice cooker. Meanwhile, wash the dried shrimp under cool running water and then soak it in luke warm water for 1 hour. Wash the peanuts and soak them in luke warm water in a separate bowl for 1 hour. Heat a wok over high heat. Add a few light drizzles of vegetable oil to the wok and then stir fry the drained peanuts with a pinch of salt until heated through. Dish out and set aside. Add more vegetable oil to the wok if necessary and then stir fry the dried shrimp until it starts to crisp up. Dish out and set aside. Once the rice is finished cooking, dump it out into a large heatproof container and toss in 1 tablespoon of salt. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse the salted pork belly pieces well under cool running water. Drain, dry off with a paper towel, and then set aside.

To assemble and wrap the joong, see the video here where my grandma demonstrates how to fill and wrap a joong. Note that you will need kitchen twine.

To cook the joong, place them in a very large stock pot and fill the pot with water so that the joong are at least almost completely covered by the water. You may need to do this in batches if you do not have a pot that is large enough to hold all 32 of the joong. Then bring the water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil for four hours, covered. Remove from the hot water and enjoy immediately. You could serve this with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side. Once the cooked joong has cooled completely, these may be frozen. Simply defrost completely and then reheat by steaming (see here for How to Steam Cook Food) or by boiling.

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  • Recipe Index
    • DIY and Crafts
    • How-To
    • Asian
      • Dim Sum
      • Rice and Noodle Dishes
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      • Soups
      • Other Asian Foods
    • Indian
    • Breakfast
    • Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvres, Snacks
    • Breads
    • Soups and Salads
    • Sides and Sauces
    • Main Course
      • Poultry
      • Red Meat and Eggs
      • Fish / Seafood
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How to Make the Best Chinese Rice Dumplings (Joong)

Cooking with Alison’s Grandma (Part 4 of 4)

‘Joong’ or Chinese rice dumplings have also been called Chinese tamales. My grandma makes the best joong in the world. I can’t eat other peoples’ or restaurants’ joong, because nothing comes close to grandma’s joong. So I was very happy when she agreed to teach me how to make them. It takes a lot of work and the preparation starts days in advance, but her recipe makes 32 and they can be frozen for future meals.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

The first joong that I ever wrapped.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

The first joong that I ever wrapped.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

This photo was taken after we had already started eating the joong. Note that they don’t come out of the wrapping broken like this.

How to make zongzi chinese tamales

This is how my grandma sets up her kitchen twine so that she can easily pull out more string as she wraps her joong.

Joong (Chinese Rice Dumpling) Recipe

makes 32; adapted from Alison’s grandma

5 pounds long grain glutinous rice (‘lo mai fan’)

3 to 4 dried bamboo leaves per joong, so at least 96 total

32 uncooked salted duck/chicken eggs, yolks only (see recipe here)

32 pieces of boneless pork belly with the rind on, approximately 1 1/2 pounds, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices which are then cut into 3/4 inch wide pieces (Note: In Chinese, this cut of meat is called ‘five flower meat’ because it should contain 3 layers of fat and 2 layers of meat.)

8 Chinese sausages (lap cheong), cut in half lengthwise and then cut in half crosswise, yielding 32 pieces total

1 1/2 pounds of shelled and peeled raw peanuts

1/2 pound Chinese dried shrimp

coarse Kosher sea salt

Four days ahead of time, wash the bamboo leaves under cool running water and then boil them until the colour of the leaves turns very green. Then soak the leaves in water at room temperature for 4 days. Replace the soaking water with fresh water once a day. On the day of assembly, use a cloth or paper towel to wipe the leaves clean.

Three days ahead of time, massage a few pinches of salt into the pieces of pork belly. Keep the salted pork belly in the refrigerator, covered, until the day of assembly.

On the day of assembly: Place the rice in a very large rice cooker with enough water to reach a level of 1/2 inch above the rice. Soak the rice for 2 hours and then cook it until soft using the rice cooker. Meanwhile, wash the dried shrimp under cool running water and then soak it in luke warm water for 1 hour. Wash the peanuts and soak them in luke warm water in a separate bowl for 1 hour. Heat a wok over high heat. Add a few light drizzles of vegetable oil to the wok and then stir fry the drained peanuts with a pinch of salt until heated through. Dish out and set aside. Add more vegetable oil to the wok if necessary and then stir fry the dried shrimp until it starts to crisp up. Dish out and set aside. Once the rice is finished cooking, dump it out into a large heatproof container and toss in 1 tablespoon of salt. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse the salted pork belly pieces well under cool running water. Drain, dry off with a paper towel, and then set aside.

To assemble and wrap the joong, see the video here where my grandma demonstrates how to fill and wrap a joong. Note that you will need kitchen twine.

To cook the joong, place them in a very large stock pot and fill the pot with water so that the joong are at least almost completely covered by the water. You may need to do this in batches if you do not have a pot that is large enough to hold all 32 of the joong. Then bring the water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil for four hours, covered. Remove from the hot water and enjoy immediately. You could serve this with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side. Once the cooked joong has cooled completely, these may be frozen. Simply defrost completely and then reheat by steaming (see here for How to Steam Cook Food) or by boiling.

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    Chinese Recipes and Eating Culture

    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 5 th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar). This year, our Duanwu festival falls on 9 th this July. That’s why I am bringing this easy Zongzi (or Zhongzi too )recipe.

    How to make zongzi chinese tamales

    How to make zongzi chinese tamales

    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

    1. Small Sticky Rice Balls over Mango Smoothie
    2. Thai Sticky Rice Recipe with Mango
    3. Chinese Sticky Rice Recipes-Two Ways
    4. Sticky Rice Balls–Nuomici
    5. Siu Mai Recipe (Shao Mai) with Sticky Rice
    6. Glutinous Rice Ball with Crushed Peanuts
    7. Sesame Balls-Jian Dui
    8. Tang Yuan Recipe-Black Sesame Filling
    9. Snow Skin Mooncake-Video Recipe with Custard Filling
    10. 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.

    How to make zongzi chinese tamales

    • 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.

    Self-Help for the Elderly

    Want to learn to make zongzi 粽子 (aka Chinese tamale)?

    Please visit http://bit.ly/SHEzongzi to register; download the ingredients list; grocery shopping; and attend the virtual # cookingdemonstration class on Friday, June 4, 2021 at 1:30 – 2:30 pm.

    Self-Help for the Elderly

    Want to learn to make zongzi 粽子 (aka Chinese tamale)?

    Please visit http://bit.ly/SHEzongzi to register; download the ingredients list; grocery shopping; and attend the virtual # cookingdemonstration class on Friday, June 4, 2021 at 1:30 – 2:30 pm.

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