Zongzi Recipe (Rice Dumplings in Bamboo Leaves)

Zongzi (rice dumplings in bamboo leaves)

Zongzi is a traditional dish that is eaten all year round, but especially during the Dragon Boat Festival. This is the delicious, chock-full of ingredients Taiwan savoury version, a home-style recipe that makes as good a zongzi as I have eaten anywhere.

Makes 20 dumplings

40 large dried bamboo leaves (2 for each zongzi)
20 long strings (for binding leaves)
1 kg (2.2 Ib) long grain sticky rice
2 kg (4.4 Ib) pork belly, sliced into 3 cm (1″) cubes
10 salted duck’s egg yolks
40 small dried shiitake (black) mushrooms
20 dried, shelled chestnuts
10 spring onions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2″) lengths
500 g (18 oz) dried radish
100 g (3.5 oz) very small dried shrimp
200 g (7 oz) raw, shelled peanuts (with skins)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
Vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 star anise
1 teaspoon five spice powder


Prepare and cook ingredients

  1. Soak rice in water for three hours, drain.
  2. Stir-fry pork for a few minutes. Add chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, star anise and five spice powder, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork and chestnuts from liquid and set aside.
  3. Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour).
  4. Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and trim stalks. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Stir-fry with a little liquid from pork stew.
  5. Halve duck egg yolks.
  6. Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic.
  7. Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant.
  8. Stir-fry shrimp for a few minutes.
  9. To a large wok or bowl, add rice, peanuts, radish, shrimp, spring onions, a little liquid from the stew mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well.

Wrap zongzi

  1. Soak bamboo leaves in warm water for 5 minutes to tenderise, before washing thoroughly in cold water.
  2. Wet strings to make them more pliable.
  3. Take 2 leaves with leaf stem or spine facing out. Overlap them lengthwise in inverse directions (pointed end of one leaf facing the rounded end of the other).
  4. With both hands hold leaves about 2/3rds of the way along their length. At that point bend them so that they are parallel lengthwise and also overlap. This should produce a leaf pouch that you cup firmly in one hand.
  5. Add a small amount of rice mixture, compressing with a spoon.
  6. Add 1 piece each of pork, chestnut, mushroom, duck egg yoke.
  7. Add more rice until you have nearly a full pouch. Compress firmly with a spoon.
  8. Fold leaves over the open top of zongzi, then around to side until zongzi is firmly wrapped. Zongzi should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. Trim off any excess leaf with scissors.
  9. Tie up zongzi tightly just like shoes laces with a double knot. Normally they are tied to a bunch of zongzi.
  10. Steam for 1 hour, unwrap and serve.

Chinese groceries should stock most of these ingredients. They will almost certainly have the wrappers and strings in the lead up to the Dragon Boat Festival. Eat zongzi plain or with a sauce of your choice. Wrapped tightly in plastic, zongzi freeze well. To reheat, thaw, and without removing the bamboo leaves, steam (best option), or microwave. Before micro-waving, poke a very small hole in the wrapping and pour in 1/4 of a teaspoon of water to help prevent the zongzi drying out. To test for doneness, plunge a sharp fork into the centre of the zongzi. If the fork is hot, so is your snack. 

*People in southern Taiwan prefer to fry the rice after soaking it. They also boil rather than steam zongzi.



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