Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zhongzi (Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

Update: Today is again duan wu jie, the day we eat glutinous rice dumplings. I'm re-posting my 2007 post on glu rice dumplings because I didn't make any rice dumplings this year. I thought I'd wait until my kids are back from Melbourne next month for their winter break. It will be a feast everyday next month, and I'm getting ready by stocking up my fridge, fertilizing the daun kesom and mint (guess what for) and trying to loose 2 kgs (yes, those stubborn 2 kgs that have been dogging me since 2005) before bloating up again.

I have told you in my post below how the Chinese came to celebrate duan wu jie. Last week, the ex-president of Korea jumped to his death because he was plagued by legal moves against him for corruption while he was president in early to late-2000s. While it was shocking, and it is always tragic when someone takes his own life, I think he took the only honorable way out because jail would be too good for people who hold high public posts and abuse their positions. Roh may have been corrupt, but he had a conscience (or was it cowardice?) which is lacking in Taiwan's Chen Shui Bian. I can't believe Taiwan is so mesmerized by the actor-ex-president and moving so slowly to convict him, despite overwhelming evidence of massive corruption.

Post below was posted on 19/6/07:


Today is duan wu jie. Malaysians call duan wu jie ( Fifth Day of Fifth Lunar Month Festival) guo zhong jie which literally means "wrapping dumpling festival." According to my friend Lily from Jiangxi, China this festival started in 200 BC to commemorate Qu Yuan, an advisor and poet to the King of Chu State in China. A wise and much-loved statesman, Qu Yuan committed suicide by jumping into a river when he was saddened by the weak and corrupt court which had led to occupation of his state by another king. To prevent the fish in the river from getting to his body, the people made zhongzi (glutinous rice dumplings) and threw them into the river. Wow. Thank goodness for such integrity and patriotism or we wouldn't have zhongzi.
My kids grew up eating my MIL's Shanghainese zhongzi and through the years I've tried to wean them by buying the local zhongzi, which are mostly Cantonese zhongzi, but they stubbornly declare Shanghainese zhongzi are the best. I think both are great, the difference being Shanghainese zhongzi are more flavorful because the rice is flavored with soy sauce (so they're light brown as versus white Cantonese zhongs) and the pork is marinaded days ahead in soy sauce and saoxin wine. However, where they win in taste/flavor, the Shanghainese zhongzi lose in the variety of stuffing. True Shanghainese zhongzi has a huge piece of marinaded fatty pork, and thats it. I say "Boring" in retaliation to my Shanghainese FIL's accusation of "Zha qi zha ba" which means hodge podge, in reference to the Cantonese zhongzi of pork, chestnuts, green or black-eyed beans, salted egg yolk (yums!), dried shrimps, dried mushrooms and even sweetened peanuts (yuks). When I was little, my Dad tortured us with his 'pillow' zhongzi. It's as big as a telephone and to warm it up, he's have to cut it into smaller pieces and fry it and it really was a terrible jumble!

Well, the kids miss their Grandma's zhongzi this year because she won't be back from Shanghai till tomorrow so I bravely took on my MIL's role and made her zhongzi today. I've helped her make zhongzi once and tried it at home once and then swore I'd never make them again. So much work! But you know what, when Wey pronounced at first bite that its very close to Grandma's, I almost collapsed with happiness. Here I share my MIL's Shanghainese zhongzi recipe but I have improved it by adding salted egg yolk, dried mushrooms and dried shrimps. I think its the best of both zhongs.

Shanghainese Zhongzi

1) Glutinous rice


-wash well and drain. For every kilo of glutinous rice, mix in 1 T veg oil, 1T dark and 1 T light soy sauces, 2 1/4 t to 2 1/2 t salt and 1/3 t msg. Do taste the uncooked rice and adjust the taste to your liking, remembering that after boiling the zhongs will absorb water and expand and taste less salty than the uncooked rice. Season the rice about 1 hour before using it.

2)Fatty pork

- Use belly or the fatty part of pork shoulder. Remove skin. Cut into 3cm by 5 cm pieces, or larger if like. Marinade pork at least 3 days ahead with saoxin wine (about 3 T for each kg of pork), dark soy sauce for color, white pepper and salt.

3)Zhong leaves


-My cousin in Quilin had a zhong plant and I was surprised because I always thought zhong leaves are bamboo leaves. Lily said that zhongzi wrapped with fresh zhong leaves have a most wonderful smell, much better than the dried leaves. When my kids came home yesterday they were sniffing the air and drooling over the zhongs that were being boiled. Must smuggle the plant in some day. It looks like a nice ornamental house plant.
-Just plunge the leaves in boiling water till softened. Cut off the first 3cm because the petiole will pierce and tear the zhongzi if you don't remove it.
-Take out and soak in cold water, preferably overnight or the leaves will give a slight bitter taste to the zhongs.

4) Wrap zhongzi according to the desired style. I find this the hardest part because I'm all foot! Shanghainese zhongs are a twisted rectangle shape, unlike the pyramidal shape of Cantonese zhongs. Try and get natural weedstrings or even cotton yarn like I did to tie the zhongs. The commercial zhongzi are all tied with plastic 'raffia' and its just worrying when you consider that the zhongs have to be boiled for 3 hours. Make sure the water covers the zhongs.

Update: MIL has tasted my zhongxi and wasn't very impressed. Tips she gave me: don't tie zhongs too tight or the rice will not be able to expand/cook evenly. The pork pieces should be bigger, in rectangular size so all section of the zhongs will have some pork. The rice should be left to marinade an hour or so.

True Shanghainese rice dumplings will only have a large piece of marinaded pork, no dried shrimps, mushrooms etc. Mine's a cross between Cantonese-Shanghainese, like my kids.



(credits to Hongyi for taking these awesome pics!)


raina said...

Si Fu, is there anything you don't know how to cook/make/bake? Can I order the zhong from you next year?

Terri Hong said...

u've made me 10 feet tall so I'm saving some for u! come by my house 2mrw!

bh said...

Hi Terri - I was looking out in your blog, wondering if you would put up a zhongzi receipe and was pleasantly surprised to find it. Thanks for sharing with us.

See - I'm so hooked to your blog and depend on it so much for recipes!

I grew up eating nyonya zhongzi made by my grandmother who lives in Malacca. Though she's 85 this year she still finds the energy to make zhongzi! The nyonya dumplings have a blue band on them as they use natural colouring from a flower called bunga telang which you probably know. I've not seen nyonya dumpling in KK. They are yummy too.

Terri Hong said...

hey bh, it was a feat for me to make those zhong. i think i have eaten nyonya zhong maybe once. i know the blue flower;bought it once but didn't know how to use it...

piglet~ said...

aww... tht dumpling is soooo nice!

raina said...

Your zhongzi IS as good as it looks.. which is very good. I love it. Not salty, just the way I like it! Thanks a bundle.

Anonymous said...

Hurrah Terri for your comment on the politicians!

Lily Anette said...

I totally forgotten about "tuen ng chit" this year! I so wanna make the Nyonya ones. At the meantime, just love looking at your Zhongs! Yum!

Johnathan Oh said...

Ahhh, comments you want, comments you will get. Those dumplings looked awesome. I have helped my mum made those before but could never recall the way to do it.

My paternal grandma is of peranakan descend and also makes great nyonya zhang, but those recipes are buried together with her... such a waste.

Hmm, one more thing that requires pardon on my ignorance... what's the diff between Terri Hong and Terri Ng?

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: ...sad isn't it, how things are.

lily: how's the duen ng chit celebration over at ur part of the world?

johnathan: johnathan johnathan, how will i go on without u, ur comments?? thanks buddy for always cheering me on.

oh i think nyonya rice dumplings are beautiful! i ate some long long time ago n hav forgotten how they taste, but i lov the blue ones, so pretty n special.

terri hong n terri ng r the same person. terri ng is a feminist who has not dropped her surname after marriage but sometimes when the occasion is beneficial to her, she will use her husband's surname, hong :D

in this case, i think terri hong was the identity her son keyed in for her when he first helped her set up the website.

Anonymous said...

The first photo of your zhongzi is beautiful! I am eatng it from my screen!

Johnathan Oh said...

Hahaha, thanks for thanking Terri. Your comments somehow made my head swell. Come to think of it... is that a bribe so I will comment more often? :p

Anyway, keep up the good blogging work. ;)

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: thanx :D

johnathan: i swear i'm not 'bribing' u! i really mean it. some readers write me often, some write emails to me, a handful in particular write regularly n i love getting to know them n their families etc. u comment regularly, n i feel like i know u so i mean it:)

triShie said...

uhm....i've never tried zhongzi..but, they're pretty similar to bak zhang, right? and bak zhang i love!! :)

terri@adailyobsession said...

trishie: bak zhang (hokkien) n zhingzi (mandarin) are one n same!

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