Today is the Dragon Boat Festival (aka the Duanwu Festival) which occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar. The best part about this festival are the zongzi as well as dragon boat racing.
Zongzi (rice dumplings) are small pyramid-like food items stuffed with sticky glutinous rice and usually has a pork filling with a combination of mushrooms, legumes, Chinese sausage and egg inside. This is wrapped in bamboo leaves and then steamed or boiled. You can also get sweet zongzi which are filled with a sweet bean paste like taro and red bean. I have childhood memories of my mum making zongzi from scratch and then wrapping them in the leaves – the part she found most difficult. Wrapping these babies is an art.
I found a couple of crates of zongzi at Asian Provisions in Phillip. One crate filled with pork and mushroom zongzi, the other crate filled with pork, mushroom and mung beans. At $3.50 each, I bought one of each.
After warming it up, I unravelled one to reveal the glistening sticky rice.
There’s a small portion of pork, a mushroom and plenty of mungbeans. Each of these is a meal tied up in one neat little package. Just one can be quite filling with lots of carbs, protein and fibre.
So what’s the story behind this festival? During the Zhou dynasty, a high-level public servant Qu Yuan worked for the Government of the State of Chu. He was exiled after opposing an alliance with the State of Qin, and then spent several years writing poetry. When Qin seized the capital of Chu, he was so distraught that he committed suicide in a river. To try and save him, locals raced out on dragon boats, beating a drum to scare the fish away, to try and find him. When they couldn’t, they would drop zongzi into the river so that the fish wouldn’t eat his body. I’m not sure how much of that is true, but that’s the story. And that’s how dragon boating was born.
You’ll be able to find some zongzi at your local Asian grocer if they haven’t already sold out!