Yup, it's time for Duan Wu Jie aka Dragon Boat Festival again! I've written about these zongzi or rice dumplings before in 2011 and again in 2009 (and now that I'm looking back at those posts, man, apparently I take the same shots every year! And the pictures seem better in the previous posts) so I will keep the words to a minimum! (And yes, that is an entire stockpot full of zongzi. Hey, if you're going to bother, make a lot! They happen to freeze very nicely, and then you can just microwave one when you feel the urge strike.
First ingredient: glutinous rice! Glutinous is such a weird sounding word isn't it? Anyway, this is sticky rice, and you have to buy this kind if you're going to make these dumplings, otherwise they will fall apart all over the place. For the savory ones, the rice is marinated in soy sauce diluted with water.
And second ingredient: pork! You have to get pork with some fat to it (but not too much fat). You could use belly but make sure there is actual meat and not just fat, which is what I keep seeing in the supermarkets. Check your local Asian grocery! This is cut into chunks and marinated in rice wine, soy, and five spice.
Filling the bamboo leaf cone. A layer of rice goes in the bottom, pork in the center, and top it all off with more rice. The rice to pork ratio is up to you; in our family, we never seem to make equal amounts of filling so the first few we make are super full of pork, and by the time we get to the last of the rice, we're rationing those precious, precious bits of pork (and let me tell you, an all-rice dumpling is no fun). I think we did pretty okay this year, though.
And bonus shot of me in the middle of making a sweet rice dumpling. The filling here is chunky red bean paste, which you can conveniently buy prepared in a can. The rice, of course, is not marinated in soy sauce. But the filling technique is the same. And of course if you're making both you should figure out some way to distinguish between the two types, lest you spend the next few months playing rice dumpling roulette.
After all that wrapping comes a few hours of boiling. By the way, did I mention this is a good test of patience? It's worth it, I promise. Here is one of mine, almost ready to eat (and the reappearance of my fishy plate! It is sort of apt, if you know the legend behind these zongzi.)
And finally! Mmmm, porky deliciousness. (Sorry--I haven't had a sweet one yet, so no shot of those. Maybe after I stumble home from karaoke tonight. Then again....maybe not.)
I love keeping these kinds of family food traditions going; it's an important part of our heritage. I mean, sure, I benefit by eating them (and these are so much better than the storebought ones) but there is something personally satisfying about spending a few hours sitting around the old kitchen table with my mom, making something we've made for years and years and years. And it doesn't hurt that mine totally look better than my mom's. ;)