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Daniel B Eats Zongzi

June 6, 2019

As it turns out, today is the dragon boat festival. I had no idea, until Vivian Chan told me earlier this week. It’s hard enough to keep track of the Jewish holidays I’m supposed to celebrate. So all of the other beautiful traditions around the world tend to be things I stumble upon every now and again.

Anyway, Vivian’s family has been preparing the traditional glutinous rice dumplings one eats to celebrate the festival at Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro on Wolf Road. I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it on the blog, but that’s my favorite restaurant in the area.

So after reading Emily L’s guest post on Tuesday, I was compelled myself to get out and try one. But I was short on time, so I picked up a couple of zongzi to go.

The reheating instructions are simple. Boil water. Drop zongzi into boiling water. Heat on a low boil for 15 minutes. Remove it from the water, cut open the package, and enjoy.

In the privacy of my own home, I ate the thing out of hand, peeling back the bamboo leaves and enjoying bite after savory bite. Working my way through that thing was like a journey of Chinese flavors. The first bite is all about the soft glutinous rice. Until, that is, I encountered the salted duck egg yolk. Then came the chestnut, followed by the salted pork. Last but not least was the shitake mushroom. With the final bite returning to sticky rice.

Next time, I might take a more civilized approach, unwrap the entire dumpling, and enjoy sensible bites with chopsticks.

One thing that might get lost in translation is the green beans. The sign in the restaurant says the zongzi contains green beans as well. However, those green beans are mung beans. And the green skins have been removed to reveal the tender yellow centers. It’s these earthy pulses which nestle all the other ingredients within the glutinous rice exterior.

The dumpling is massive. Its heft is impressive. My one regret is that I didn’t weigh the thing to report back just how much food is wrapped up within those leaves.

Just today, I found a recipe for how to make this seasonal treat. And after reading, any complaints I may have had about the price of this dish flew out the window. There are simpler and smaller zongzi that are significantly less expensive. Even at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro they have one that’s filled with red bean paste for dessert. So if you might be turned off by mung beans and salted duck egg yolk, you can still get a taste for these unique dumplings. And if you take that one home, it only needs to be boiled for 10 minutes.

I still have that one in the fridge, and I’m looking forward to heating it up tonight with Little Miss Fussy. She loves red bean paste, so I think it’s going to be a hit.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Third Auntie permalink
    June 12, 2019 11:44 pm

    The Asian market on Colvin Avenue brings up zongzi from Chinatown when they do the dim sum deliveries. Sometimes the zongzi are still warm. Get the ones wrapped in plastic. They are not expensive and usually available year round.

    I used to watch my mother make these when I was little. The bathtub would be filled with leaves soaking for days. She would have homemade salted pork and all the other ingredients laid out on the table. She could wrap the dumplings very quickly. Hers were beautiful little works of art, looped and tied intricately. It is a dying food craft. Every burner on the stove would have a large pot of dumplings gently boiling for hours. Then the fridge shelves would be filled with so many dumplings.

    There is another type of zongzi that is difficult to find, lye water rice dumpling. The lye water turns the rice a lovely yellow. The version my mother made had a wood sliver in the rice and when done, the dumpling would be tinged red in the center. She would wrap these in a rectangular shape to distinguish them from the savory ones We would eat this dumpling with Karo syrup to sweeten it. I like to have this zongzi for dessert.

    Here is a good article explain lye water dumplings.

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