Zongzi, a Festive Delicacy

The origins of zongzi (rice dumplings) are traced to the Chinese legend of Qu Yuan, a well-loved patriot poet who drowned himself in a river due to the imminent fall of his country Chu, which was one of the ancient Chinese kingdoms. To prevent the fish in the river from eating his body, people made zongzi and threw them into the river.

There are a lot of different kinds of zongzi, each with its own particular flavor, shape, and type of leaf for wrapping. The fillings for the dumplings vary from region to region but the rice used is always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice"). Depends on the region, the rice may be precooked or only soaked before using. Fillings may be sweet, such as mashed yellow beans, or savory, and may include pork, sausages, Chinese mushrooms, salted egg, and chestnuts. The Beijing style is the sweetest, with coarse bean paste. Guangdong zongzi is either sweet-tasting, with walnut, date or bean, or salty with filling ham, egg, meat, roast chicken.

The rice dumpling is usually a pyramid of rice which encloses the filling and wrapped in dried (or more rarely fresh) leaves. Bamboo leaves are perhaps the most common, but lotus, banana, canna and Alpinia zerumbet leaves are not unknown. Bamboo-leaf zongzi is a specialty of South China. Wrapping a dumpling neatly is a skill which is passed down through families. Dumpling-making is usually a family event with everyone helping out.

The dumplings need to be steamed for several hours. They may also be frozen for later consumption, but must be boiled instead of steamed when stored in this fashion. The salty zongzi is easy to cook when compared to the most difficult and hardest zongzi, the red bean (sweet). The red bean zongzi takes many hours to prepare. The red bean used to make the filling must be slowly cooked and simmered for at least 12 hours to turn the hard beans into a soft sweet paste.


Source: http://www.chinatownconnection.com/