Recipe: How to Make Zongzi, Part 1

4 06 2008

In honor of the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on June 8 this year, I am introducing my first ever recipe post. I am not sure if this will become a regular section of this blog, but thought it would be fun to try. Last month, when my parents came to visit, I asked my mom to teach me how to make Zongzi, a very traditional Chinese food. Since this is one of my favorite foods, I was very excited to learn how to make zongzi.


Zongzi are steamed rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves that are customarily eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie). There is a very interesting legend behind this food. According to the story, the festival is held to honor Qu Yuan, a high official during the Chu Dynasty, who drowned himself after finding out his country lost a war. The locals thought him to be a good man who loved his country, and decided to throw food into the river so that they fish would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. They also scared the fish away by playing drums on long narrow boats called dragon boats. This evolved into the tradition of annual dragon boat races and zongzi eating that still continues today in Chinese communities around the world.

2008 Washington D.C. Dragon Boat Festival
Photo courtesy of CT Chen

Note: This recipe in its entirety takes quite a few hours to make from start to finish. Prep time alone will take approximately 2 hours, then about 45 minutes of assembly, then 45 minutes of steaming for each batch. However, it’s a great family activity!

by A. Wang
Makes approximately 24 zongzi (2 batches)

Large steamer
Large pot (for boiling rice)
Wok or large stir fry pan
Chinese strainer with handle (see photo)
Cotton string

Peanuts (1 bag)
Dried bamboo leaves (24X2)
Dried shitake mushrooms (12 whole)
2 lbs of pork shoulder butt
2.5 lbs of Sweet Rice
Salted, aged egg yolk (as many as desired, 1 per zongzi)
Spices, including 5 spice powder, white pepper
Oyster sauce or mushroom oyster sauce
Cooking wine
Cooking oil


1) Soak peanuts for 30 minutes in water. Then cook peanuts in rice cooker with 2 pinches of salt. Make sure water covers all peanuts and that the water is below the max level.

2) Marinate meat, squeeze meat to mix and tenderize
2 lbs of pork shoulder, cut into ~¾ inch cubes
1 tps of 5 spice powder
1 tps of white pepper
4 Tbs oyster sauce
2 Tbs cooking wine
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 Tbs sugar

3) Soak bamboo leaves in hot water until soft (about 30 minutes). Then wash each leaf individually with sponge on both sides.

4) Soak dried shitake mushrooms in cold water until soft (about 1 hour)
Cut off stems, cut into quarters

5) Cut 6 strings about 4 feet long each. Fold in half and make a knot in the middle to create 12 2 feet long strings that hang from the knot.

6) Pick apart salted dried egg yolks from package. Set aside for assembly later.


1) Cook mushrooms

2 Tbs of cooking oil
2 Tbs of soy sauce
½ Tbs of sugar

Using 2 Tbs of cooking oil, stir fry on high heat until fragrant. Then turn down heat to medium low and add 2 Tbs of soy sauce and ½ Tbs of sugar. Stir fry again and then set aside.

Gratuitous shot of stir fried shitake mushrooms.

2) Stir fry meat on high heat. When meat looks dry, turn to low until juices run out. Then turn to high heat again and stir fry until done. Remove meat and set aside in a bowl. Keep the gravy.

3) Start water boiling in large pot for rice. Add half of sweet rice when water begins to boil. Stir. Pour in other half of sweet rice.

4) In wok, pour in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add 6 cloves of crushed garlic. Stir fry until brown then remove garlic, leaving the infused oil. Pour in gravy from the meat and 2 Tbs of soy sauce to taste.

5) After rice in large pot has reached the puffier shape shown in the photo (should only take a few minutes), drain with strainer tool and pour rice into wok. Mix, then pour some more. Mix thoroughly.

6) Rinse steamed peanuts. Soak strings in water.



How to Make Zongzi, Part 2

Copyright (R) Travels with Sandy




9 responses

6 06 2008
Sandy H.

WOW – detailed description and pictures. Maybe I can show this in my English class for a discussion. This would have taken some time on your part. We will go to the Dragon Boat Festival in DongGang since we live in Pingtung County.

6 06 2008

Thanks for your comments Sandy! Making this with my mom was one of the most fun things I have ever done with her, and also served to continue the tradition for the next generation. I think my mom’s way is not strictly the traditional way, as she has constantly been making modifications to the family recipe to make it better and easier to make.

Feel free to use this for your class. I should have the second part up pretty soon. I am trying to figure out the best way to embed a video that shows the actual assembly. That part was just too complicated to write out!

6 06 2008

Yum! Looks delicious, thanks for sharing.

6 06 2008
Recipe: How to Make Zongzi, Part 2 « Travels with Sandy

[…] This post is Part 2 of How to Make Zongzi.  Click here for part 1. […]

10 06 2008

Clear instructions, beautiful pictures! I’ve been waiting for such a detailed, step-by-step explanation for years! Makes me think I can make these zongzi all by myself (without Mom standing next to me)… Can’t wait to try this recipe out! THANKS SANDY!! THANKS MOM!!

26 05 2009

looks delicious =)

16 06 2010
Dragon Boats and Yummy Dumplings! « Jade Star's Taiwanese Pop Culture Blog

[…] just found this super awesome 2 part blog post with tons of visuals instructing just how to do so. It’s probably not going to happen this […]

7 07 2012

oh my, finding this absolutely made my day. this is by far my favorite food from back home, it must be an addiction i inherited from my taiwanese half.

in the photo after you list the ingredients, what is on that rectangular plate, in orange? i didn’t see it mentioned anywhere. and roughly what quantity is ‘1 bag’ of peanuts?

7 07 2012

Thanks for your comment Will! The orange balls are dried aged egg yolks. We actually used two kinds of aged egg yolks since there were two kinds at the market. One was dried and one was more liquidy. You can use either kind if you decide to include egg yolks in your zongzi. I can’t remember the quantity of the bag of peanuts, but I want to say it was around 2-3 lbs. It doesn’t have to be exact, and depends on how many zongzi you are making. Hope that helps!

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