Rice dumplings (or zòngzi, ròuzòng or bah-chàng) is almost synonymous to the Dragon Boat Festival (or duan wu festival). An iconic dish the festival has a story behind it and a long process in making it.
The story of the zongzhi begins with the story of the festival and a beloved and famed Chu poet Qu Yuan. Following Qu Yuan death, the villagers would throw rice, packed in bamboo, into the river to prevent the fishes, crabs and river dwellers from eating the body of Qu Yuan. This eventually evolved to be rice packed in bamboo leaves instead.
How to Make ZongZi
Here is a video from Angel Won’s Kitchen along with recipe for it.
Different kinds of ZongZi
While the boiled and steamed version of the ZongZi are most prevalent and well-known, in Taiwan, there are many version of it. Also to note, this is a “dumpling” so anyone could get adventurous and put in any type of filling.
The key difference between the Southern style zongzi and others is that the Southern style is boiled. The filling is first cooked, but the rice is uncooked, then boiled. This allows zongzi to have a soft texture and a light scent of the bamboo leaves.
Unlike the Southern style, Northern style would not just cook the filling, but also fry the rice first.
Think a very big savory mochi. Unlike the others when you can see the individual grains of rice, the Hakka style has the sticky rice mushed together which allows for a unique and Q texture.
From the HuZhou city, marinating the rice and filling in soy sause, the HuZhou style zongzi has a heavier taste.
With Taiwan’s culture based around Buhhist religoin, naturally there is a vegetarian version. While in the north, they would simply remove the meat, in the south, the vegetarian zongzi would only have peanuts.
Why stop at savory? Soaking the rice in sugar water, this sweet dessert is perfect for the summer to cool down.
Speaking of cooling down is another sweet version. The ice dumpling has a gelatin casing for the filling. Usually a sweet paste like red bean, the ice dumpling is a modern invention for this culture of desserts.
Cinavu (NOT a ZongZi, but looks like one)
Again not a zongzi, but the cinavu’s shape is very similar to zongzi. Cinavu is from the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan. Since DuanWu festival was brought over from China, the Taiwanese aboriginals do not celebrate DuanWu festival.