Dragon Boat Festival is right around the corner (June 3rd, 2022). To celebrate it, we usually eat Zongzi, AKA sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. If you have made it before, you know how complicated and time-consuming it is. Today I want to share an easy version for beginners and it will come out just as delicious.
Ingredients (makes 12-15 Zongzi)
- 1.5 lb (680 grams) of glutinous rice
- 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of diced shallot
- 2 tbsp of diced garlic
- 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
- 20-30 pieces of bamboo leaves
To Marinate the pork
- 12 oz of pork shoulder meat
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp of oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of 5 spice powder
Glutinous rice is also known as sticky rice or sweet rice. Fun fact – glutinous rice does not actually contain any gluten. It got the name due to its sticky and gluey texture. Therefore, the rice needs to be fully soaked in order to cook properly. Or else, the outer layer of the rice will gum up when heated and block the moisture from reaching the center. You will end up with a semi-cooked rice dumpling.
The soaking traditionally will take takes at least 5 hours or overnight. That’s why it is time-consuming to make zongzi. To speed up the process, I am going to soak it with hot water. Not boiling hot water because we don’t want to cook it – Just as hot as your hands can tolerate. Now the soaking will only take 40 minutes.
Next, cut the pork shoulder meat into bite-size pieces. If you don’t eat pork, feel free to change it to chicken thigh or beef.
Marinade it with 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce, 2 tsp of oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of 5 spice powder, or any other spice blend in your pantry. Let the pork marinate for at least 1 hour. The longer, the better.
It does look like a lot of sodium for such a small amount of meat. That is because the zongzi will be boiled in the water for a long time. Part of the flavor will release into the water, so the end result will not be salty.
Next, we will re-hydrate our bamboo leaves because they are fragile when they are dry. This recipe makes 12 -15 zongzi, so you will need 24-30 bamboo leaves, but I recommend preparing a little more just in case of some break.
Add them into a big pot which I have filled with water. It is ok to bend the leaves so they can fit in. Use something heavy to press it down.
Turn the heat to medium. And bring it to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let the bamboo leaves soak on the side.
Now we will get back to the glutinous rice. They have increased a lot in volume because they absorbed the water. You should be able to break the grains easily. Drain it completely by using a colander.
Add a few tablespoons of cooking oil into a wok, add 1/2 cup of diced shallots and 2 tbsp of minced garlic. Saute over medium-low heat until the aromatics are lightly golden.
Before tossing the glutinous rice into the wok, I like to tab the bottom. Even though it looks well-drained, excess liquid will drizzle down if you tab it. I don’t want that to dilute the seasonings.
Stir the over medium heat for just a couple of minutes. This may look like an extra step, but it is very important and beginner-friendly. Before, the rice was loose like sand, quite difficult to handle when wrapping. Now the rice becomes slightly sticky; it is much easier to shape it.
Season the rice with 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce. Mix well and turn off the heat. Set it aside.
The bamboo leaves should be much more playable now. Take them out and wipe off the moisture with paper towels.
As you are doing this, you should be able to distinguish the rough and smooth sides. The rough side has an obvious stem; it should be facing out when wrapping. The smooth side should be in contact with the glutinous rice. It is not a big deal if you mess up the order, but the rice will stick to the bamboo leaves.
Some people like to brush some oil on the bamboo leaves to prevent sticky. We don’t have to because we pre-cooked the rice with some oil. You see, sometimes an extra step saves you time in other ways.
Folding is probably the most challenging part of this recipe. Each zongzi needs two pieces of bamboo leaves. Partially stack them together with the pointy tips facing each other. The smooth side should face up, and the stem part should be on the outside. Then, fold it from one-third of the length into an ice cream cone. Be sure to over lab the corner, so the rice will not fall out. Let me show you the correct order. The short stem should be on the inside. The long stem should be on the outside, so when you fold it down, you have lots of room to wrap. Those two pointy tips should be sandwiched in between so they don’t stiff out and make a mess. This is why making zongzi is challenging. If you are not folding it in a certain way, your zongzi will come out ugly.
Alright, put some glutinous rice in the bamboo cone. Add two pieces of pork, then fill up the rest of the space with more glutinous rice. Use your thumbnail and forefinger to hold the shape.
Fold the upper leaves down. Continue to wrap it along the surface and follow the shape of the zongzi. Once done, you should get something that looks like a pyramid. Tie it with kitchen twine. Just a couple of cycles, and the zongzi should be secured.
If you are a beginner, I suggest you tie the other end of the kitchen twine somewhere. It is like having an extra hand – super helpful. Making Zongzi is a yearly tradition in my family. We like to tie the kitchen twine on the door handle. Just imagine all my family members sitting around the door, and the handle hung with bundles of zongzi. It is such a funny and sweet moment.
Fill a big pot with water and add your zongzi. Press them down with a plate and make sure the water covers all the zongzi. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat to the lowest. Simmer this for 2.5 hours.
I know you probably think that this is not an easy project. Well, if you compare to the traditional process, my simplified version can be considered as the easiest zongzi recipe.
This smells so good. I love the fragrance of fried shallots and garlic. Even after 2.5 hours of simmering, you can still sense the aroma. Let me open one for you.
Easy Zongzi Recipe (Sticky Rice Dumpling Wrapped In Bamboo Leaves)
For the Glutinous Rice
- Soak the glutinous rice with hot water for 40 minutes.
- Cut the pork shoulder meat into bite-size pieces, then marinate it with soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, and five-spice powder for at least 1 hour. If you don't eat pork, feel free to change it to chicken thigh or beef.
- Fill a big pot with water and add the bamboo leaves (It is ok to bend the leaves and use something heavy to press them under the water). Bring it to a boil, turn off the heat and let the bamboo leaves soak on the side while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
- Drain the glutinous rice thoroughly. Add oil, diced shallots, and minced garlic to a wok. Saute over medium-low heat until the aromatics are lightly golden.
- Add the well-drained glutinous rice and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Season the rice with soy sauce and dark soy sauce, then remove from the wok and set it aside.
- Take the bamboo leaves out and wipe off the moisture with paper towels. As you are doing this, you should be able to distinguish the rough and smooth sides. The rough side has an obvious stem; it should not be in contact with the rice when wrapping.
- Partially stack two bamboo leaves with the pointy tips facing each other and the smooth side facing up. Then, fold it from one-third of the length into an ice cream cone. Be sure to over lab the corner, so the rice will not fall out.
- Put some glutinous rice in the bamboo cone. Add some pork pieces, then fill up the rest of the space with more glutinous rice. Use your thumbnail and forefinger to hold the shape, then fold the upper leaves down. Continue to wrap it along the surface and follow the shape of the zongzi. Once done, you should get a pyramid shape. Tie it with a few cycles of kitchen twine.
- Fill a big pot with water and add your zongzi. The water should be enough to cover all the zongzi. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 2.5 hours.
- Remove the Zongzi from the water and enjoy!