Zong Zi (粽子)

For many Chinese around the world, it is again the time to enjoy Zong Zi (粽子)with Friends and families.

Zong Zi are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June).  The shapes of Zong Zi vary, ranging from being approximately tetrahedral in southern China to an elongated cone in northern China.  Wrapping a Zong Zi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes.  Making Zong Zi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.

The fillings used for Zong Zi vary from region to region, but the rice used is almost always glutinous rice (also called “sticky rice” or “sweet rice”).  Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using.  In the north, fillings are mostly red bean paste and tapioca or taro.  Northern style Zong Zi tend to be sweet and dessert-like.  Southern-style Zong Zi, however, tend to be more savory or salty.  Fillings of Southern-style Zong Zi include salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms.

Zong Zi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is made prior to being added, along with the fillings.  However, as the modes of Zong Zi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of Zong Zi at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.

A popular belief amongst the Chinese of eating Zong Zi involved commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period.  Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors.  When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan’s grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying.  According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet’s body.

Although it may have originally been a seasonal food, Zong Zi are available year-round in most major cities with a significant Chinese population.

I decided to skip Zong Zi this year due to the mission to loss 10 lb within next couple of months.  But I would like to share some photos of Zong Zi made by one of my friends.


31 thoughts on “Zong Zi (粽子)

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  2. Oh my! I would love to try 粽子! From what I understand, it’s plant based? I used to learn some Chinese because I wrote my MA thesis on Polish, English and Chinese communication skills 🙂


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