Tag Archives: chinese

Zong Zi or Chinese Rice Dumplings

18 Jun

Zong Zi or Zhong as I like to write it is a traditional Chinese food that’s eaten on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar. This year it fell on last Wednesday (6/15). This is also the time of the dragon boat races. Traditional folk tales say that zhong were thrown into the water to feed either a famous poet that drowned himself or to feed the water dragons to keep them from eating the poet’s body. Zhong is made from glutinous or sweet rice and wrapped with bamboo leaves. It can be filled with whatever you want. My family likes to put fatty pork, Chinese sausage (lop cherng), salted egg yolk, small dried shrimp, and either mung bean (called green bean in Chinese) or peanuts. It’s a very time consuming process to make zhong but with a bit of practice, it’s actually not difficult. The bounty of zhong you get in return makes the process worth it.

Since there are not many recipes out in the world wide web, I am going to share with you my family’s recipe as it was taught to me by my mom.

Huang Family’s Zong Zi
Makes around 35-40 pieces.


5 lb sweet (glutinous) rice
1 bag bamboo leaves
2 lb of pork belly with skin
1/2 pack of Chinese sausage (lop cherng), cut on a diagonal 1/2″ thick
1 bag of salted egg yolk, each yolk cut into 3 pieces (optional)
1 bag dried, peeled mung beans
1 bag (12 oz) shelled plain peanuts, soaked in room temperature water for 25 min, mix into rice, add salt
1/2 cup dried shrimp, soaked in water overnight and drained
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp five spice powder (optional)
2 tsp Chinese cooking wine (optional)
ball of white string
a gigantic pot or 2-3 big pots


1. The night before:
a) Wash bamboo leaves thoroughly by scrubbing or rinsing each piece in the sink. Soak leaves overnight in a pot of warm water.
b) Cut pork belly into 1/2″ to 3/4″ pieces, you should have around 40 pieces. Marinate pieces overnight in the fridge with 1 tsp salt, some pepper, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp five spice powder, and 2 tsp Chinese cooking wine.
c) Soak dried shrimp in warm water overnight.

Day of cooking:
2. Wash rice in cold water with 3 changes of water. Soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain in colander for 10 minutes or until no water is dripping out. Then, return rice to bowl and mix in 2 Tbsp salt and 3 Tbsp oil (we use the Chinese ceramic soup spoons). You can also add some soy sauce.
3. In a large pot, boil the leaves for 5 minutes. Then, drain and rinse leaves in cold water. Let the leaves sit in a colander to drain.
4. Soak peanuts for 20 minutes.
5. Rinse mung beans until the water is no longer bright yellow, about 2-3 rinses. Mix in 1/2 tsp salt and bit of oil.
6. Meanwhile, chop Chinese sausage, and salted egg yolks, if using.
7. Assemble all ingredients on a table where you can wrap the zhong comfortably.

8. Watch the video to learn how to wrap zhong. There are other videos on youtube that might help too.

a) Take 2 leaves and hold them together horizontally, offset by 1″, with your palms facing down. Fold the leaves in half and make a notch at the bottom incorporating both leaves in the fold. This makes a pocket for the rice so it cannot leak out.
b) Put a scoop of rice (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup).
c) Put a tsp of mung beans on top of the rice.
d) Take another leaf and it around the walls of the pouch so it makes a higher wall.
e) Add 2 or 3 shrimps, 1 piece each of fatty pork, sausage and egg yolk.
f) Add another tsp of mung bean and cover everything with another scoop of rice.
g) Fold the walls together towards the previous notch to enclose the filling. Turn the zhong so that the only opening is now facing up. Tap the zhong to settle the rice downwards.
h) Finally, while holding the zhong so that a bottom corner is facing you, fold down the remaining leaves by pressing a straight line at the top edge of the filling. The fold should be in the direction towards you or away from you (toward either of the two bottom corners).
i) Hold the string, leaving a foot long tail) and use the part connected to the roll to wrap one half of the horizontal zhong four times. Then, switching hands, wrap the other half of the zhong using the tail end of the string, 3-4 times. Make the two strings meet in the middle and wrap the zhong twice vertically. Tie off leaving two tails. (Wrap it once vertically for peanut).

9. After wrapping around 20 mung bean zhong or until you have half the rice remaining, mix in the drained peanuts with the rice and add an additional teaspoon of salt. Follow the same steps to wrap zhong except leave out the mung beans.
10. Place 3 leaves at the bottom of each pot. Place zhong into pots. Fill with water and cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium (stove dial 5) and cook for 3 1/2 hours. Leave the lid open a crack if it keeps boiling over. Keep hot water on hand to replenish evaporated water.
11. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store in the fridge for about a week or freeze. Reheat by boiling or steaming.

Notes: These zhong are savory, not sweet. Sweet rice is the name for glutinous rice that turns sticky and is not named that way because it’s sweet in taste. On the day of, I started at 11 AM and finished boiling everything at 5 PM. Once I filled up the first pot at 12:30 PM, I put it to cook and then finished up the rest by 1:30 PM. It goes A LOT faster if you have more hands to help. You get a lot faster once you figure out how to wrap and tie them.

We had to use 2 of these sized pots. At home, my mom has a giant pot just for boiling all the zhong at once.

"green" bean zhong

I hope this helps you if you ever decide to make some. They’re really satisfying and delicious!

New Year Festival

17 Feb

The festival was last Sunday and my whole family drove into the city to try to catch it. Since parking is normally insane on regular days, my parents didn’t actually get to see much since they had to stay in the car. We originally thought it was in Columbus Park but it turned out to be at Roosevelt Park on the other side of Chinatown. We were lucky because while walking there we bumped into lion dancing which was happening on Mott St. Usually all the lion dance troupes are running around Chinatown to visit storefronts and get lucky money in exchange for a performance. I love lion dancing; the loud drums and the colorful lions are always fun to watch. As a kid, I use to pretend to be a lion dancer with chairs and a big towel. Lion dancing actually requires a lot of training similar to Kung Fu to build the strength required and for the dance moves.

We finally made it to the festival in time to “see” the fire crackers. They went off way off schedule which worked on our favor since we were late. Unfortunately, it was so crowded that we couldn’t see anything but smoke and crowds. Good thing fire crackers are so loud!

Here are some pictures I managed to take on Mott St.
red lion

yellow lions

red firecrackers


To give you an idea of the crowds:

And here’s a short clip of a lion bringing luck to a restaurant. Click on the link to watch it larger on flickr.

Lion dance – Chinatown, NY
Originally uploaded by bluealue

Steamed Egg Custard Dessert

11 Mar

A simple dessert that is super easy to make and super satisfying. The texture of this egg custard is very smooth and can be eaten warm or chilled. Sweetness level can be adjusted to your taste. This Chinese dessert is similar to the Spanish flan!

Unfortunately I ate it before I took a picture. Plus mine were in white bowls so they weren’t that pretty to photograph anyway. Here’s a pic I found online of what they look like.

Steamed Egg Custard Dessert
Makes 4 Chinese rice bowls, will serve 4-6 if using ramekins.

4 extra-large eggs
2 cups milk
~4 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients together trying not to form bubbles. Let mixture sit if a lot of bubbles form so they can pop.
2. For a super smooth consistency you can strain the mixture but I didn’t bother.
3. Pour into bowls/ramekins.
4. Boil water in steamer (or whatever steaming contraption you create). Once boiling, place bowls in steamer and turn heat to medium-low. Steam for 20 minutes. To check if it’s done, stick chopstick into surface of custard, if no liquid custard wells up then it’s done. Custard will feel very soft.
5. Let it sit uncovered until it’s cool enough to grab out of the steamer. Enjoy warm or chill for a few hours until really cold, then enjoy.

Homemade Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

12 Jul

My mother made char siu for dinner today so I thought I would share her recipe with the world. It’s quite good and authentic with a home made touch. She uses bottled char siu sauce but improves it with her own additions.

char siu rack

Char Siu Recipe
2 lbs char siu meat (boneless pork, commonly found in Chinese meat markets)
1 Tbsp cooking wine
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Pinch of salt
Pinch of chicken bouillon powder
2 Tbsp ketchup
8 Tbsp char siu sauce (bottled)
2 Tsp soy sauce (optional)

Optional glaze:
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water

Mix all ingredients except for the pork and glaze. Cover pork with marinade and refrigerate overnight or for several hours. Place foil over a baking sheet and place a rack on top of the foil. Lay pork on the rack and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or until insides are no longer pink and edges start to darken. If you want you can baste with remaining marinade. Flip pieces after 30 minutes to brown it evenly. Brush on glaze when finished cooking right before taking it out of the oven. Cut into slices and enjoy.

char siu