The origins of Zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings, can be traced back as far as 278BC. The delicacy, associated with the Dragon Boat festival, also known as Duanwu festival, takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar.
The household story about Zongzi’s origins is that patriotic poet Qu Yuan (circa 340-278BC), from the Zhou dynasty, committed suicide by drowning in the Miluo River. Locals, who admired Qu for his integrity and patriotism, threw balls of sticky rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not feed on Qu’s body. This is one of the best-known stories about the origins of Zongzi.
Today, Zongzi (or Zong) has been re-interpreted by Chinese living in different corners of the world. We take a look at some of the most iconic modern-day Zongzi.
Common among Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese, this dumpling includes ingredients such as pork, mushroom, dried shrimps, candied winter melon and preserved bean paste. It is sometimes dipped in crushed blue pea flowers to make the Zong blue.
Locals traditionally make two versions of this steamed dumpling: a sweet soda dumpling and a savoury one. Filled with bean paste, the soda dumpling is usually eaten with sugar or honey. For the savoury dumpling, common ingredients include pork, egg yolk and mushrooms.
Shanghai Zong (Jiaxing Zong)
Popular among the Shanghainese, Jiaxing Zong is known for the quality of its ingredients: first-class white glutinous rice, finely selected ham and pork belly pickled with Shanghai soy sauce.
The glutinous rice is first fried in dark soy sauce before being wrapped in lotus leaves together with ingredients, such as pork, beans, chestnuts, salted egg yolk, mushrooms and dried shrimps. Locals usually eat this dumpling with garlic and red chilli sauce.
Chiu Chow Zong
This Zong is wrapped in layers. First, glutinous rice is fried in soy sauce. Then sweet bean paste is wrapped in non-marinated glutinous rice and then put inside the glutinous rice fried in soy sauce. This prevents the salty and sweet tastes mixing.
There is also a Zong from KFC! Offered only in China, the triangular-shaped dumpling is placed in the “Duanwu Auspicious Bucket” and has traditional fillings such as salted egg yolk and pork.