Zongzi (Chinese: 粽子) is a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice, stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. The food is popular during May 5 in the Chinese lunar calendar, early June according to the Gregorian calendar. It can be cooked by steaming or boiling. In Western countries, they are also known as Chinese rice dumplings.
The traditional Chinese food Zongzi is meant to commemorate Qu Yuan (Chinese: 屈原340 B.C.-278 B.C.), the patriotic poet of ancient China.
Qu Yuan was a well-known poet who was particularly concerned with his government's fate. Unfortunately, his talent and aspiration aroused the jealousy and hatred of the king, who banished him to a remote area. The poet despaired for the government and its policies. When the state Chu's capital was captured by enemies, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River (Chinese: 汩罗江) in central China on May 5 in the Chinese lunar calendar. He was a much beloved poet and people felt his loss deeply. Locals searched for him in the river, meanwhile dropping dumplings of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river in order to keep the fish from attacking Qu Yuan's body.
Since that time, Chinese memorialize the patriotic poet by enjoying Zongzi on the anniversary of his death. In addition, there also has been a festival called the Duanwu Festival, also called the Dragon Boat Festival. In 1980 the event was listed in state sports competition programs and has been held every year. The participants compete for the "Qu Yuan Cup."
The shape of Zongzi ranges from being relatively tetrahedral in south China to cylindrical in north China. Chinese families pass down the neat wrapping technique as well as the recipes so younger generations may make the treat.
Traditional Chinese Zongzi are wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. The fillings vary from region to region, but the most important filling is always glutinous rice (also called sticky or sweet rice). Depending on the regions, the rice may be lightly pre-cooked by stir frying or soaked in water. The dish often contains either dates or sweetened red beans. Meat is also a popular filling in south China. Depending on how the rice is made prior to adding the fillings, Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for anywhere from minutes to hours.
"A season of Zongzi leaf fragrance" is used to describe Chinese Duanwu Festival. If you ever visit China during the season, you can't miss the nationwide custom of enjoying Zongzi. You are sure to be impressed with the traditional snack's delicacy and the fragrance of the leaves wrapped around the sweet rice dumplings.