Rice Dumplings—ZOMG! Zongzi! 粽子！
粽子Zòngzi—often called ‘rice dumplings’ in the West or some variation of “bak chang (肉粽)” in Southeast Asia—are a quintessential part of Duanwu, even though Chinese people eat these packets of rice and various ingredients wrapped in leaves year-round nowadays, not just at Duanwu, and actually have done so for millennia.
Of course, zongzi come in many variations, depending on ethnicity, history and ingenuity.
Here is just a small sampling of common zongzi:
Fújiàn ròu zòng
Hokkien Bak Chang
Common in Singapore, Malaysia and Southeast Asian Chinese communities with Fujianese ancestry, it is filled with pork belly, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried shrimp, and sometimes salted egg yolks and gingko nuts, enclosed by rice coloured by dark soy-sauce.
Táiwān běibù zòng
Taiwan Northern Zongzi
The Hokkien bak chang’s Taiwanese cousin. Pork belly, dried shrimps, mushrooms, chestnuts, and sometimes salted egg-yolk, stir-fried then wrapped in bamboo leaves before steaming.
Táiwān nánbù zòng
Taiwan Southern Zongzi
Similar to the Northern zongzi, except it also contains peanuts in addition to pork belly, dried shrimps, mushrooms, chestnuts and salted egg-yolk. It is cooked by boiling rather than steaming.
Cantonese Zung Zi
Common in Cantonese communities, these zongzi are filled with a mix of fatty pork and lean meat, together with green beans or split mung beans, and Chinese sausage. The glutinous rice is seasoned with garlic oil and salt.
Kèjiā bǎn zòng
Hakka Ban Zang
Glutinous rice is pounded to a paste before enclosing pork, dried shrimp, mushrooms, and dried radish. Once wrapped in bamboo leaves, it is steamed.
Kèjiā jiǎn zòng
Hakka Kee Zang/Alkaline Zongzi
Often served without fillings (but drizzled with sugar syrup), this zongzi’s distinctive yellow glutinous rice comes from lye water (枧水 Jiǎn shuǐ), an alkaline mix which gives ramen noodles their springy mouthfeel, and bagels, pretzels and traditional Cantonese mooncakes their dark golden colour.
Cháozhōu ròu zòng
Chaozhou zongzi/Teochew Bak Chang
In addition to the usual glutinous rice, pork belly, mushrooms and dried shrimp, the Teochews add either red date or lotus paste to yield a combination of sweet and savoury flavours.
Hǎinán zhěntou zòng
Hainanese Pillow Zongzi
Barbecued pork (or sometimes even chicken wings), salted egg yolk, salted fish and glutinous rice, shaped into a pillow and then wrapped in either banana leaves or osmanthus leaves before boiling.
Niáng rě ròu zòng
Nonya Bak Chang
A blend of Malay and Chinese influences, Nonya changs contain a mix of fatty and diced pork, mushrooms and candied winter melon, flavoured with coriander powder (ketumbar) and pandan leaves. The rice is also tinged with blue from the butterfly pea flower.