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Zongzi | Chinese Sticky Rice Tamale 粽子 | Yi Reservation

Zongzi | Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling 粽子

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{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

From the kickoff of the World Cup in Brazil, to Wimbledon Championships, to NBA and Stanley Cup final, this June is one of the most exciting month for the sports fans around the world.

Ah, let’s also not forget the annual Dragon Boat Festival aka Duanwu Festival (端午節), an annual sporting event and culinary festival that’s widely celebrated in every 5th day of the 5th month off the traditional lunar calendar.

{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

The reason I get excited about Dragon Boat Festival is because of zongzi, a popular dish served around this holiday (and available year-round in China and Chinese supermarkets overseas).

For the uninitiated, Zongzi 粽子, aka Chinese sticky rice dumpling, or Chinese tamale, is a bamboo leaf wrapped dumpling filled with sticky rice and other savory or sweet ingredients. It shares a lot of similarities with tamale and it’s got quite a bit of history behind it (read up the legend here).

{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

Growing up in China, I always looked forward to Dragon Boat Festival because that’s the only day of the year I’d have chance to eat zongzi made by my grandmother. Every year, grandma would start to prepare the zongzi a day or two before the festival. On the day of the festival, all the grandkids would gather around and help her fill up the dumplings. When the dumplings were finally cooked, all of us kids would rush to un-wrap that tender and delicious goodness and dig right in.

Today, with almost every Chinese grocery store carries it in the frozen food section. Getting zongzi cannot be easier, however, making your own zongzi is actually not as intimating as you might think (that is if you follow the step by step recipe below).

{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

Before I turn over to Mrs. YiReservation who will be demonstrating the recipe, I just would like to point out that there are many regional variations on how zongzi is made. Depending on the region, you’ll come across zongzi made in different shapes with a wide range of filling ingredients.

{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

This particular Cantonese style zongzi recipe is based on a recipe from Mrs. YiReservation’s mom. It’s packed with rich and savory ingredients such as pork belly, scallops and salted egg yolks. However, the filling is highly customizable so feel free to adjust to your own liking!

Zongzi | Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling 粽子

Yield: 12 dumplings

Prep Time: 2

Cook Time: 2

Total Time: 4

Make this traditional Zongzi or Chinese Sticky Rice Dumplings following this step-by-step recipe at yireservation.com.


  • 21oz (600g) sticky (glutinous) rice
  • 2 dozen bamboo leaves

For filling:

  • 8oz (230g) pork belly
  • 11oz (300g) skinless mung bean
  • 4 dried shitake mushroom, reconstituted
  • 6 dried scallops, reconstituted
  • 1 dozen salted egg yolk

Pork belly marinade:

  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1tsp five-spice powder

Rice marinade:

  • 2tsp salt
  • 1tsp white pepper powder
  • 2tbsp oil


  1. Soak the sticky rice in cold water for at least 2 hours. Drain all the water. Mix in all the rice marinade ingredients. The rice can be prepared in advance
  2. Soak the mung beans in cold water for at least 1 hour. Drain all the water. Add 1 tsp of salt and mix well. Set aside
  3. Slice the pork into ½ inch pieces and mix in the pork marinade. Let the pork marinade for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator
  4. Slice the shiitake mushroom into bit size. Half the reconstituted dried scallops. Harvest the salted egg yolk if you use fresh salted egg
  5. Submerge the bamboo leaves in a large pot of water for about 30 minutes until the leaves turn soft. The leaves can be very dirty, wash a few more times if that’s the case. Boil the soaked leaves in a wok or pot for about 10 minutes until the leaves are soft. Rinse the leaves thoroughly and wipe the leaves clean with paper towel
  6. Gather up all the ingredients and get ready to wrap the zongzi
  7. Take two bamboo leaves and place them in opposite directions. Overlap the two leaves by 80% of the area. Starting at 1/3 lengthwise from one end, bend the leaves to form a cone
  8. Make sure there is no opening or holes on the cone
  9. Fill the cone with 1 tbsp of sticky rice and 1 tbsp of mung beans
  10. Add a layer of pork belly, shiitake mushroom, scallops, and salted egg yolk
  11. Cover with another 1 tbsp of mung bean. Gently spread to cover
  12. Lastly, add another layer of sticky rice to cover the top
  13. To close the opening, fold over the remaining 2/3 of the leaves
  14. Cover the top completely and press down to partially cover the sides
  15. Wrap the edge of the leaves to either left or right side of the zongzi
  16. The zongzi should be completely wrapped
  17. Turn the zongzi around to make sure there is no opening
  18. Use a string or straw to tied up the zongzi
  19. Make sure you wrap the zongzi a few times so there are no loose ends. You don’t need to tie it too tight, allowing some room for the cooked ingredients to expand
  20. Place the wrapped zongzi in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to boil. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size of the zongzi

Enjoy the zongzi while it’s still hot. You can also keep the extra ones in the freezer and reheat them in a steamer

{Recipe} Zongzi Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling

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  1. Pingback: 14 High-Calorie Rich Foods For Underweight Toddlers (Easy Recipes) - Meal Nanny

  2. 14

    Excellent recipe and instructions. I made this and posted the experience on my blog. Thank you!

  3. 13

    Hi, Yi. Thanks for the recipe. I have browsed few differents recipe and yours is the closer one to my Cantonese family. I have made it few times. I prefer to add black eye beans instead of mung beans.

    • 13.1

      hi Corina, thanks for checking out the recipe and I am glad to hear you found it authentic! I’ll have to give black eye beans a try next time I make rice dumplings! Thanks again for the feedback.

  4. Pingback: Chinese Zongzi Recipe | Food Recipes

  5. 12

    I saw Zhongzi’s being enjoyed at my local nail salon and had to ask about them because in PR these are similar but also made with root vegetable and plantain massa then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled: Pasteles! Omg so delicious, I realize these two cultures have crossed paths and the originals are Chinese because its all too obvious they were all over the world before the arrival of Columbus 1492, the art, language and foods influence is evident. At least Italians admit Marco Polo brought spaghetti over from China, after that cultural influence and contributions all gets obfuscated. Am so glad to have found this site, reconfirms the similarities. Thank you for sharing. Shen shen.

    • 12.1

      Just searched for pasteles and it’s almost identical to that of zongzi. It’s really interesting how two unrelated food cultures could cross path. I hope you get to make/try this savory zongzi soon. Also I just posted an easier sweet red bean zongzi in case you have a preference.

  6. 11

    Hi your zong looked so neat and delicious especially with those yellow beans ! I just simply could not wrap it well, well done !

  7. 10

    Hi Yi,
    I look through a few 糭子recipes here, your looks the closest of my mom’s. I miss hers so much but she lives in Hong Kong, when I was s kid I never paid attention on how she made those, usually is she & my grandma made a bunch of them. All these years, she tells me over the phone how to make it… I tried but it’s just hard without seeing any step by step instruction and measurement. And here today, your recipe motivates me to make them, thank you!
    Jade Lau

    • 10.1

      Hi Jade, happy dragon boat festival!! I am glad you find the recipe easy to follow and would attempt this festival dish! It’s pretty hard and it takes quite some practice but I hope you get to try it. Thanks again for checking out my blog!

  8. Pingback: Zongzi | Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling 粽子 | blog3

  9. 9

    Hello, I think your website might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your blog site in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!

  10. 8

    Well done! I’ve not wrapping ‘zongzi’ for 4 years. Thanks for sharing this recipe 🙂

  11. 7

    Though Duanwu festival is already over, I want to have some esp. after looking at these dumplings. I did not have any dumplings this time 🙁

  12. 6

    Lovely zongzhi recipe. I loved your stepwise demo. Would save this recipe at once!

  13. 5

    They look excellent! It has been ages since I last had one….miss it!

  14. 4

    I’ve heard of these but have never had them. They look wonderful! Definitely would be fun to try this. Really nice dish — thanks.

  15. 3

    This looks amazing! For those that can’t find bamboo leaves, banana leaves are a great substitute. They can often be found in a Latin grocer’s freezer section plus the leaves are large and you can cut them into sizes that you need. Between my Asian market, Latin market, and Int’l grocer, I can usually find what I need!! Yippee!!

    • 3.1

      This looks so interesting.
      I’ve seen a similar preparation in Peru called Tamales.
      The difference is that the base is corn not rice and it is steamed in banana leaves instead of Bamboo leaves.
      I will try this recipe but will have to use banana leaves because here we can’t get bamboo leaves over here.
      Looking forward to it:)

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