The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a famous poet and minister who lived during the Warring States period (475-221 BC). Qu Yuan was a loyal patriot who was exiled by the king he served. When he learned that his country had been conquered by another state, he drowned himself in the Miluo River to show his love for his country.
The festival is celebrated in various ways across China. One of the most popular activities is dragon boat racing. Teams of paddlers race dragon boats decorated with dragon heads and tails to the beat of drums. The festival is also celebrated by eating zongzi, a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with various fillings such as pork belly, salted egg yolk, and mushrooms.
Today we’re going to introduce you this delicacy vary from different region in China.
The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is almost always glutinous rice (also called “sticky rice” or “sweet rice”). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using.
In the north of China, fillings are mostly red bean paste and tapioca or taro. In the south of China, fillings include salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms. Other fillings include marinated or dried jujubes, marinated fruits, salted or chashu pork, fish, beans, chestnut and shrimps.
In Beijing, zongzi is smaller compared to the ones in southern areas. The bundles are usually in a pyramid shape, and the fillings are usually beans, dates and lotus seeds. Meat is seldom used as an ingredient, so most of them have a sweet flavor.
Guangdong zongzi is a representative variety of southern zongzi. It is small size, unique shape, square front and a pointed angle at the back, which looks like a cone. In addition to the common fresh meat zongzi and bean paste zongzi, there are also zongzi made with salted egg yolk, chestnut, shiitake mushroom, as well as Guangdong-style mixed zongzi made with diced chicken, diced duck meat, char siu pork, egg yolk, shiitake mushroom and mung bean paste.
Zigui in Hubei is the hometown of Qu Yuan. To express their nostalgia for Qu Yuan, the locals have poured different emotions into making rice dumplings. The dumplings made here are also particularly exquisite. All of them are triangular in shape. According to Zheng Chengzhi, a folk expert in Zigui, “The triangular dumplings symbolize Qu Yuan’s life with edges and corners. A red date must be placed in the dumpling to symbolize Qu Yuan’s loyalty. We descendants should also be loyal to our country like Qu Yuan.”
Honey-coated cold rice Zongzi are a traditional food that people in Xi’an, Guanzhong and southern Shaanxi love to eat during the Dragon Boat Festival. It is the most deeply rooted traditional rice zongzi in Chinese history. Honey-coated cold rice zongzi originated in the Tang Dynasty and evolved from the “Fei Han Xiang Zong” given at the “burning tail banquet” hosted by Tang Weiju Yuan for Emperor Zhongzong. The annotation is “honey-coated”, which means that honey is poured on the rice zongzi. In the hot summer, honey-coated cold rice zongzi are sweet and fragrant, refreshing and invigorating, and are definitely a must-have for the hot summer!
The Wucai zongzi of the Miao people in Hainan are taken from the leaves of the holly tree that can be seen everywhere in the fields. These leaves are large and thick with a natural fragrance. The pork is made from the famous local product “Wujiao pig” in Wuzhishan, and only the fat and lean five-flower part is used. The white color of the five colors comes from the color of glutinous rice itself, and the dyes of the other four colors are naturally extracted from local plants. After cooking, the dye and glutinous rice are mixed to color it into five colors.
In terms of popularity, Shandong yellow rice zongzi is definitely the big brother among zongzi in various places. It is wrapped in high-quality yellow sticky rice and filled with small red dates, which has a unique flavor! The way of eating is also very special. Many Shandong girls who love sweets will stick white sugar on the zongzi to increase the sweetness. It is said to be very refreshing and delicious!
The original flavor zongzi uses fresh reed leaves, which will be more fragrant during the Dragon Boat Festival (due to the season). Only glutinous rice is used without any fillings. What you eat is the fragrance of reed leaves and rice! Among many zongzi with fillings, except for the novelty at the beginning, pure glutinous rice zongzi is still the most delicious!
In addition to the zongzi from the places mentioned above, there are many delicious flavors and shapes of zongzi in China. Each provincial capital has its own characteristics. If you want to try Chinese zongzi, which place and flavor of zongzi would you like?
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