Growing up in an Australian Chinese household, there are random things you eat on particular days. One of them is eating ‘Zong’ or 'Zongzi' - sticky rice with savoury filling wrapped in bamboo leaves eaten on Dyun Ng Zit (pronounced doon nn zit - cantonese).
It never occurred to us that Dyun Ng Zit is a celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival as our parents never spoke about the history of it. We always just knew it as a day (actually more like a 2 week period of time leading up to it) to eat delicious Zong - and that’s why we always liked this festival.
So how is Zong related to the Dragon Boat Festival?!
There must be an old tale behind it..like all Chinese stories. The story involved a patriotic salesman called Qu Yuan from ancient China. When the kingdom he served fell, he threw himself in a river in despair. It was said that locals threw triangle-shaped rice dumplings into the river to stop the fish from eating his body - this is how the sport of dragon boating and the tradition of eating Zong came to be. I think we have a lot to thank Qu Yuan for 🙏🏼
Nowadays, Zong is eaten on this special day with family and friends as a symbolism of luck, as the pronunciation of Zong is similar to the pronunciation of zhong (中), a character with positive connotations.
A bit about the Dragon Boat Festival
This year, the 2000 year old Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 25, the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese calendar, stemming the festival’s original alternative name, the Double Fifth Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival was birthed on the basis of superstition, as the fifth lunar month is considered an unlucky month, and the fifth day of the month as a bad day. Poisonous animals would appear starting from snakes, centipedes, and scorpions, and sickness would begin to come about, therefore, the Dragon Boat Festival was cultivated as a day for getting rid of bad luck.
Today, The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated across the world, with Dragon Boat Races, silk-threaded braiding, and lots of rice wine.
What does Zong taste like?
If you could describe Zong metaphorically, it would be a warm, delicious hug. Aromatic sticky rice filled with a variety of fillings including marinated pork belly, sausage, shiitake mushrooms and salted duck eggs (all the good stuff) are wrapped up in leaves of reed, lotus, or banana, forming a pyramid shape. It may appear as a simple-leafed square package, however when unwrapped, the delectable flavours dance together, making it the perfect heart-warming meal, best shared with your friends and family.
Worthy to note is that the choice of fillings vary region to region. Northern regions in China prefer sweet or dessert-styled Zong, with bean paste, dates, and nuts as fillings. Southern regions prefer the more savoury variations.
How is Zong made?
This is what the inside of Mama Fu's Zong looks like. Filled with red beans, mung beans, pork belly, Chinese sausage, dried shiitake mushrooms with glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.
COMING SOON - Mama Fu’s special homemade recipe for Zong.
Try it for yourself
Whether you try it as an iso-dish using our super simple, yet delicious recipe, or you purchase it on our website, we can promise you that this dish is perfect for a winter’s day or night in. The tradition of the Zong has been long-standing, with the dish reigning popularity around the world. It is satisfying, delectable, and incredibly aromatic, filled with a beautiful blend of flavours. The best things, afterall, come in the smallest of packages ;)
If you are in the mood to get in the kitchen to make Zong, shop now for our DIY Cook Kit for Zong - COMING SOON.
P.S - We’re hoping to bring you more reads like this to help you understand more about our rich and interesting culture. I sure didn’t know that Zong had such a long standing history behind it myself! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it!