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Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Post for Mother's Day - Zong Zi Recipe

Here's a post for Mother's Day, my first recipe with my Mom.  It is also the first YouTube video where I speak Mandarin.  Happy Mother's Day to all my Mom and all other mom's out there.  

ZongZi (Bamboo Leaf Rice Wraps) - all amount are approximate, all fillings are optional.  You can make this vegetarian.  History of the Food

Ingredients - makes about 40-50 zongzi
2 lbs Pork Boneless cubed with fat.  You'll need one piece of meat per ZongZi.  (optional)
3 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
1 cups dried squid, first soaked in water and sliced (optional)
2 cups dried shrimp (optional)
4 cups dried mushrooms soaked, halved.  You'll need one piece of mushroom per ZongZi.
1 cup fried shallots
1 lb Spanish peanuts, shelled.
5 lbs sweet rice (black sweet rice is okay)
Dried bamboo leaves (2 per zongzi)
MSG (optional)
5 spice powder
soy sauce
white pepper
Canola oil for frying (use just a tablespoon or so for frying)
Butcher's twine or other thin cooking string - thinner is easier to wrap

Other optional fillings: Chinese sausage, pickled vegetables, salty egg yolk.
Tips: If you plan to use black and white rice, cook and wrap the white rice first.  Otherwise everything will turn into a dark sticky mess.  Also, you can mix the black and white rice, and it will all turn black.  This is a little more cost effective as black sweet rice is more expensive.  There is no taste difference between the black and white rice.  Also, reserve all liquids including the mushroom soaking liquids. 

Pre-preparation: Soak dried bamboo leaves in warm water overnight.  Do this in a bucket so that the entire leaf(ves) are in water.  Soak peanuts overnight and steam until just cooked.  Remove from water and set aside. 

The fillings: Fry garlic, shrimp, squid, and mushrooms separately until crispy.  Fry separately as overloading the pan (especially with water logged mushrooms) will just cause them to boil and you'll lose the nutty flavors.  Fry pork until crispy and then allow to simmer until fragrant.  The juices of the pork will run out.  Add 5 spice powder, msg, and soy sauce to taste.  Add the previously fried garlic, shrimp, squid, and mushrooms.  Toss to coat, and set aside.  These fillings will no longer be crunchy, but they will retain the nutty and carmely flavors.  Sprinkle fried shallots on top. 

The rice: Fry rice in oil with soy sauce, white pepper, salt, and 5 spice powder.  Fry rice in batches if your pan is fairly small.  Once fried, add water and the reserved liquids (from soaked mushrooms, run off from pork, peanut soaking liquid).  The rice to water ratio should be 2:1.  For every 1 cup of rice, add 1/2 cup of liquid.  Stir the rice constantly like a risotto.  Do not fully cook the rice until done.  You should only partially cook the rice.  When cool enough, mix the cooked peanuts with the rice. 

Time to wrap: Cut wrapping twine into 5 ft long pieces and fold in half.  Make a loop and knot it in the center where you folded it.  Please see picture below for better illustration.  The loop allows you to carry and hang the batch of zongzi as you are wrapping and cooking.  You can make batches as big or small as you want.  In the picture below, there are 10 long pieces of twine folded in half to make 20 loose strings.  Each zongzi requires one string so each of our batches had 20 zongzis. 

It is easiest to have 3 stations set up: bamboo leaves, rice, and fillings.  Have the twice hooked on to something nearby.  Folding the bamboo leaves is one of the trickiest parts of wrapping zongzi.  Hence the video will come in handy.  First pick two leaves that are complimentary.  If you fine a long skinny one, look for a short wide one.  If you find one that is a little tattered, look for a big sturdy one.  The slick part of the leaves should be on the inside facing you.  This is the part that will be touching the rice.  The outside of the leaves are a little fuzzy and not glossy.  Hold the leaves so the base of the leaf is towards the outside and the tips are overlapping.  They should also be slightly off-center (back one a little lower than the other) to increase the width of the leaves.  Bigger width allows you to make bigger zongzis.  Fold the ends downwards as if you're making a cone.  Fold over the end of the cone so that there is a crease.  Without a crease, rice will escape and your zongzi will turn into a dirty rice water soup.  The crease should be tight as the zongzi will expand when cooking.  Also the ends of the leaves need to be long to ensure that they cover over the rice when wrapping. 

Holding the cone with your left hand., fill the one third of the cone with the rice and peanut mixture, add your fillings, and top with more rice.  The zongzi should be packed pretty tight with no loose edges. Using the palm of your right hand, fold over the the ends of the leaves and press the rice into the cone flat.  Do not roll the leaves or push the rice, they should be packed evenly using a pressing motion.  The left hand should be holding the shape of the cone with the thumb and index finger wrapped around the top of the cone.  In one smooth even motion, slightly curl the thumb and index finger of the left hand (turning the shape of the cone from a full circle to a circle with a flattened side) and use the right hand to hold the ends of the leaves flat against the cone.  All the rice should be covered with bamboo leaves now.  While holding the zongzi tight in the center of the cone with the left hand, use the right hand to fold the leaves over the edges of the cone in a triangular shape.  The round cone has now become a triangle.  At the top of the triangle (base end of the leaves), fold over the ends.  Wrap the zongzi in the middle (it should include the end of the leaves that were folded over) by using a downward pulling motion.  This will pull the string tightly.  Wrap at least twice and secure with a slippery hitch.  You may also double knot, but the slippery hitch allows for easy opening of the zongzi with a single pull. 

Cooking the Zongzi: Using a large pot (14 quarts or larger), place zongzi into boiling water.  This recipe will cook in about 1 hour because the rice was precooked.  In other recipes in which the rice was not precooked, Zongzi may require 2 hours of boiling.  They are done when they appear rounded and puffy, and are soft to the touch.  Serve with soy sauce or soy paste and spicy cock sauce.  Do not eat the bamboo leaves. 

Storage: May be refrigerated for 3 days.  May also be frozen indefinitely.  Thaw, microwave, and serve. 

Halved Dried Mushrooms

Frying the garlic and squid.

Add the Shrimp.

Frying the pork.

Mixing all the fillings. 

Fried Garlic, Fried Squid, Fried dried shrimp, Fried Mushroom, Pork, and a sprinkling of Fried Shallots

Frying and precooking the rice

Black rice and peanut mixture

Setting up the string

The string set-up

Making the cone.

Packed with rice and fillings

Flattening the top of the cone.

Closing the cone and wrapping the leave ends around the sides.

Folding over the end of the leaves.

Wrapping it tight. 


  1. MmmmmmMMMMMMmmmmMMMMMM!!!!

    Awesome how-to post! If only I weren't so lazy...these are a TON of work!

  2. Mmmmmmmmmmmm! 我在中国吃过了。 谢谢你写怎么做粽子! 太好了!现在想吃粽子。 :)