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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taiwanese Zongzi - a Chinese Tamale

I come from a family that celebrated every European and Chinese holiday imaginable, so naturally, I love traditions and customs. It is interesting that while Europeans seem to cherish the atmosphere surrounding an occasion (think Christmas), Chinese seem to emphasize the importance of the actual date and time (think Chinese Dragon Boat Festival).

So Dragon Boat Festival is a special day in the Chinese culture. The legend describes a famous Chinese poet who drowned in a river in his attempt to defend the nation. In order to remember him, people eat something called Zongzi during Dragon Boat Festivals. Zongzi is definitely one of my favorite treats. It is a bit like a tamale where glutinous rice is wrapped in bamboo leaf and then steamed or boiled. The filling can be savory or sweet (I always choose the sweet red bean paste Zongzi). Though many variations exist out there, Taiwan is famous for perfecting Zongzi. Taiwanese Zongzi can be described as either Southern or Northern style. Since I'm most familiar with the Northern style Zongzi, I made a mini-version of it.  

I was pleasantly surprised (and impressed) that hubby is a natural. I will be expecting some sweet ones from him soon! In my version, the raw rice was fried in a little bit of oil and soy sauce along with deep fried shallots. I added meat, shiitake, and cooked salted duck egg to the inside of the Zongzi. I replaced the traditional pork belly with marinated and cooked chicken thigh meat (for a slightly healthier version). The Zongzi were steamed for about an hour and drizzled with sweet chili sauce right before serving. Since it was our first try, they were not the prettiest but they definitely the tastiest. 

Stay tuned for our sweet version! I will include a (picture) recipe too if anyone is interested.


  1. i think its beautiful and it sounds amazing. I would love to try that. Yum thanks for sharing!

  2. wow i've never heard of a chinese tamale before!!! crazy~~~ love this! easy to veganize too! can't wait for the sweet recipe :)

  3. Chinese tamale?!? that's so new to me, never heard before.
    your savory zongzi sound great, can't wait for the sweet version

    happy weekend

  4. Thanks for the info on Dragon Boat Festival, very interesting! These are beautiful and really sound delicious with all those savory ingredients!

  5. yummmy n inviting..
    new to your space...love your recipe collection..nice presentation...
    Am your new subscriber now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..

    Tasty Appetite

  6. These zongzi look amazing, especially with that chili sauce! Can't wait for the post on the sweet version; those are my favorite. Ok, starving now.

  7. This sounds absolutely delicious - and I can't wait to see the sweet version of this!

  8. Oh I love this. It's one of my favorite !

  9. What a great post! These sound delish!

  10. Very clever and unique! Can't wait to read about the sweet version!

  11. Very interesting. I'm likin' the savory version.

  12. I prefer the savory rice dumpling. And even within the savory side, there are quite some variety of fillings too :)