Monday, June 6, 2011

Dragon Boat Festival

Today is the fifth day of the fifth month in the Lunar Calendar, in which the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated. There are a few different iterations of the origin, but the most common story is about a patriotic poet, Qu Yuan, drowning in a river. His admirers did not want the fish to eat his body, so they raced to him, beating loudly on their drums and threw zhoong into the river to distract them. Zhoong is sticky rice filled with various things like beans, meat, and egg and wrapped in bamboo leaves. In addition to eating zhoong, dragon boat races are still held today. Boats range in size between 40-100 meters, and can have up to 80 rowers!

Now, onto the zhoong! My favorite cousin was so kind and generous to teach my sisters and me how to make these delicious treats. She grew up calling them Chinese hand granades or Chinese tamales! We spent one day learning how to make them, and I came home with 17! My cousin started the process 2 weeks days before our lesson by placing a dozen egg yolks on a bed of salt. Voila! They became preserved by the day of our arrival! These were creamier, softer, and not as salty as preserved duck eggs.


Three days prior to our visit, she boiled the bamboo leaves to loosen up the dirt. She changed the water and allowed them to soak. On the day of the lesson, I was the first to arrive and given the duty of brushing the leaves and rinsing them one last time to prepare them for wrapping around the rice.

We rinsed and soaked the glutinous rice for an hour until each rice kernel was easily cracked between our fingertips. Meanwhile, we soaked the mung beans and prepped the other ingredients by dicing them.

We had dried shrimp, pork belly, Smithfield ham, and Chinese sausage. It's tempting to want to stuff the packages with all the "goodies," but we were warned that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, or in this case, too salty. Soon, our assembly line was ready for us to start filling! We came to a stop when the rice ran out. We put the wrapped up packages into a pressure cooker.

An hour later, we were able to unwrap the fruits of our labor and taste our first batch. It did not disappoint! I was thrilled at how good they turned out. I shared a few with my parents and brother. The rest were for me to take home. I have been rationing these in my freezer, and now have 4 left. I will be sad once the last one is gone because these are so much better than the ones purchased in the Chinese bakery.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so jealous! I can't remember when I last had one. I never realized how they preserved eggs - so neat to see. This seems like the perfect recipe to get the entire family involved. I think you need to plan another visit to your cousin =)