This year, Dragon Boat Festival fell on Sunday, June 8. On Saturday, Mommy and I made zongzi. It’s been a few years since my mom made zongzi, and I missed eating her homemade zongzi so much. This year is the first time I’m helping her to make them.
Making zongzi is a tedious, day-long affair. Starting with the preparation of the ingredients: Blanch and drain dried bamboo leaves. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms and chestnuts, cut them up. Blanch the pork, cut finely. Finely chop candied winter melon, shallots and garlic. Wash and drain the glutinous rice. Separate salted egg yolks from whites. Fry shallots, garlic, winter melon, mushrooms, pork, and chestnuts. Season with soy sauce, salt, sugar, pepper, ground coriander.
Phew! Now, we can finally wrap the zongzi into their characteristic tetrahedrons! All the wrapping was done by Mom.
I tried to help. Mom warned me, “It’s not easy.” “Teach me! How hard can this be? I’m a fast learner!” True enough, even after a few tries, my zongzi fell apart! Argh! Not wanting to waste the ingredients, I left the task to Mom.
Wrapping zongzi is a lot harder than it looks! This is really an art that takes years of practice to master.
Here’s my mom making the zongzi. She starts by folding a bamboo leaf (two if they’re too small) into a cone.
She fills the base with some rice, followed by pork stuffing and a salted egg yolk.
Then, she covers the stuffing with more rice, and folds down the leaves to shape the whole parcel into a pyramid.
Finally, she ties up the zongzi securely with hemp.
The zongzi are tied in bunches of about 10, then boiled in a large pot over low heat for nearly two hours.
Mommy’s zongzi is Nyonya-influenced — the pork is finely cut, and tastes more sweet than salty. However, the addition of mushrooms, chestnuts, and egg yolk are borrowed from the Hokkien style. It’s like combining the best of both worlds! She’s also more liberal with the fragrant ground coriander. Although zongzi are commercially available all year round, nothing beats homemade zongzi because we can customize the taste to our preference!