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Food for Dragon Boat Festivals: Zongzi Recipe

Updated on November 29, 2012
zongzi | Source

History of Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon boat festival, also called Duanwu festival or Double Fifth festival, is one of the ancient Chinese traditional holidays. It occurs on the 5th day of the May based on the lunar calendar. There are many different legends about its origin.

According to my grandma, long ago people believed there was an evil serpent living in the water and it created a lot of water related disasters to mankind. The only way to keep the evil serpent happy and stop creating disasters was to sacrifice one boy and one girl along with food on the 5th of May. In order to keep the food safe on the journey to the under sea where the evil serpent lived, people used large leaves to wrap the food they made and chained them all together along with the two young kids, a boy and a girl sitting at the front of a boat. As the boat was sent off, people made loud noises by drumming to scare away the other sea animals in the way and to alert the serpent that his sacrifice was on its way. But the serpent was killed by swallowing the two young kids. Chinese have been referring themselves as the offspring of dragon. In order to remember the two young kids who sacrificed their lives to save mankind, people started making dragon boat and Gongzi each year on the 5th of May. This version of Dragon Boat festival legend is obviously superstitious.

The more popular way to explain the reason to celebrate the Dragon Boat festival is because of a Chinese poet, QuYuan, scarified his life by jumping into a river on a 5th of May to show his loyalty to his country after the foreigner took over the country. People grieved the lost of their beloved poet and flocked to the riverside to pay tribute by throwing food they prepared into the water and to scare away any creatures in the water by drumming so that QuYuan's body would not be eaten. No matter what legends people know or believe it should be, nowadays, Dragon boat festival became a way to ward off evil and to drive the plagues and sickness away.

Food for Dragon Boat Festival: Zongzi - May Dumplings

Each year my family would make 4-6 types of different Zongzi. The recipe I am describing here is my favorite one.

How do you like Zongzi

Cast your vote for Zongzi recipe

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 6 hours
Ready in: 7 hours
Yields: 20 Servings


  • 10 Salty Egg Yolk
  • 2 lbs Salty Pork Meat
  • 5 lbs Sweet Rice
  • 3 lbs Green Bean
  • 20 Dried Conpoy
  • 40 pieces Reed or Bamboo Leaves

Different Types of Zongzi

Zongzi | Source
Zongzi | Source
Zongzi | Source


  1. You can buy salted eggs at a Chinese supermarket or make them yourself. If you want to make salted eggs at home, make sure you prepare them 3 months ahead of time. Here are the steps on how to make salted egg at home, first wash the eggs and layer the eggs and rock salt in a sealed container, prefer glass container. Use 1 egg to 1 table spoon rock salt ratio and Second, keep the container in a cool place or in a refrigerator. Third, gently rotate the container upside down every two weeks so that the salt won't always sit at the bottom. The eggs yolk should be harden after 3 months.
  2. Marinate the pork with salt or soy sauce for 5 days before you make the Zongzi.
  3. Clean the rice and green bean and soak them in water the night before. Drain the water the next morning.
  4. Clean the leaves and soak them in water overnight to make sure they are soft. Before making Zongzi, boil the leaves for a minute then rinse off any dirty stuff. The leaves are ready to be used when they are dry and cooled down.

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Fold one leaf into the shape of a boat.
  2. Scoop in a thin layer (about 1-2 tbsp) of sweet rice and spread it out evenly.
  3. Scoop in a thick layer (1-2 tbsp) of green bean and spread it out evenly.
  4. Place in the center a strip of salted pork, space out 2 pieces of salty egg yolk and 2 pieces of dried conpoy along side of the pork.
  5. Cover the pork, egg yolk and dried conpoy with a layer of green bean, following by another layer of sweet rice.
  6. Carefully close up the food inside with another leaf. Use a string to wrap around the leaves and run one or two loops perpendicular to other loops before you tie a knot at the end
  7. Make sure that the leaves have not cracked and all the food is still wrapped securely inside the leaves.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 until you finish all 20 Zongzi. Then place the Zongzi in a large pot, add in as much water as you need to cover all the Zongzi.
  9. Cover the pot and boil the Zongzi for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for 5-6 hour, depending the size of the Zongzi you have made.
  10. Transfer the Zongzi in a strainer for about 30 minutes before serving. Some people like to eat Zongzi the way it is while some people like to add in some sugar or syrup.
  11. You can refrigerate the Zongzi for up to 2-3 weeks, or freeze them for 6 months. Make sure that you boil them again before eating.


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    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you Marcy for the vote up. :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I've never heard of these! They sound so delicious, though - and you have me very curious about them. Voted up and up, and shared!