How to Make Zongzi: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

by Ella

Zongzi is a traditional Chinese food that consists of sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. These pyramid-shaped parcels are typically filled with a variety of ingredients, such as sticky rice, meats (such as pork belly or chicken), salted egg yolks, peanuts, chestnuts, mushrooms, and beans. The fillings can vary depending on regional variations and personal preferences.

Zongzi offers a delightful combination of flavors and textures, with the sticky rice being tender and slightly sweet, and the fillings providing savory and sometimes slightly salty notes. The bamboo leaves add a unique aroma to the dumplings. Zongzi is not only a delicious treat but also a symbol of cultural heritage and traditional cuisine in Chinese culture.


The origin of zongzi

The history of zongzi is closely related to a famous poet and patriotic minister Qu Yuan of the Kingdom of Chu during the Warring States period of China (ranging from 481 BC to 403 BC). Qu Yuan served as a minister for the Chu but was ousted for opposing the alliance of a much larger kingdom called Qin. When the Qin eventually conquered the capital of Chu, Yingdu, the grief was so intense that he finally committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the 5th of May.


Moved by the patriotism of Qu Yuan, the local people rolling their boats to save him. The act to save Qu Yuan was the origin of the dragon boat races during this festival. After they had failed to retrieve his body, they threw packets of sticky rice into the river, hoping the fishes would eat the rice instead of his body.


Chinese people serve zongzi every year on the day when Qu Yuan committed suicide, which happens on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. This day had slowly evolved to become the Duanwu Festival or Double Fifth Festival.


How to Make Zongzi: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

How To Make Zongzi


  • 1 Large pot or steamer This is used to cook the zongzi. If you don't have a traditional bamboo steamer, a regular pot with a steaming rack will work.
  • some Kitchen string or cooking twine This is used to tie the zongzi securely before cooking.
  • 1 Scissors To trim the excess bamboo leaves.
  • 1 Colander or strainer Used for rinsing and draining the glutinous rice.
  • 1 Mixing Bowl For soaking and marinating the glutinous rice and other ingredients.


  • some Glutinous rice
  • some Bamboo leaves
  • some Fillings Zongzi can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as pork belly, salted egg yolks, mung beans, peanuts, or red bean paste. You can choose the fillings according to your preference.
  • some Seasonings Depending on the recipe, you may need additional seasonings like soy sauce, salt, or sugar.


Prepare the ingredients

1. Cut the pork into 20 pieces. Marinate the pork overnight or up to three two days in the refrigerator
2. Soak the mushroom. Combine with the seasonings.
3. Soak and rehydrate the dry oysters for one hour.
4. Soak the glutinous rice overnight or at least four hours. Combine with the seasonings.
5. Soak the mung beans for at least one hour. Combine with the seasonings.
6. Stir-fry the glutinous rice, mung beans, dry shrimps and dry oysters until aromatic.
7. Soak the chestnuts. Clean. Lightly toast the chestnuts.
8. Cut the egg yolks into quarters.

Prepare the leaves

1. Place the leaves in a stockpot and fill up with cold water enough to submerge the leaves.
2. Place a bowl on top of the leaves to prevent them from floating.
3. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Bring it to a boil.
4. Boil at low heat for half an hour.
5. Remove and soak the leaves overnight.
6. Use the leaves immediately to wrap the zongzi. Soak them in water if you want to use them later so that the leaves sill not dry out.

To wrap and tie the zongzi

1. Lay two bamboo leaves horizontally on top of each other, with the tapered ends overlapping.
2. Form a cone by folding the leaves and gently pressing the overlapping sides together.
3. Fill the cone with a layer of sticky rice, followed by the desired filling ingredients.
4. Finally, fold the top of the cone over and secure it tightly with kitchen twine or bamboo strips.

To cook the zongzi

1. Choose a stock pot with the right size to nest all the zongzi.
2. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Place all the zongzi into the pot. Make sure all the zongzi are submerged in the water.
4. Add boiling water from time to time.
5. Add boiling water from time to time if necessary. Do not add cold water.
6. After six hours, remove the zongzi from the pot. Unwrap them immediately or keep them for future enjoyment. (You can freeze the zongzi up to two weeks.)

How to prevent the leaves from sticking to the filling

The worst thing while eating zongzi is when the rice sticks onto the leaves, and unable to remove the rice dumpling in one piece. As a result, you get a mess of broken rice dumplings on your plate instead of a beautiful golden pyramid.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Mixing the glutinous rice with some oil before wrapping can reduce the stickiness to the leaves.

2. Add some oil to the water to cook the leaves can minimize the rice from sticking to the leaves.

3. Brush a thin layer of oil on the leaves before wrapping.

4. The leaves must be rehydrated fully before wrapping.

5. The smooth side of the leaves should be in contact with the filling.

6. Unwrapped the zongzi while it is hot. The glutinous rice becomes stickier after it cools down.


Mastering the art of zongzi allows you to experience the rich traditions and flavors of Chinese cuisine. From selecting the finest ingredients to assembling and cooking these delightful rice dumplings, the process requires care, precision, and a genuine appreciation for culinary heritage. So, embark on your zongzi-making journey, savor the delightful variations, and enjoy the rewards of creating this time-honored delicacy that brings joy to every bite.



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