Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Zongzi (粽子) or Chinese sticky rice dumpling is something I have not been accustomed to since I left home quite young, but I do remember my mother making them once a year and me keeping to myself 'enoyin em'! :) It took me 18 years to meet a friend who still keeps the chinese heritage tradition alive in a Western Country that we are in. My lovely friend, Yuli brought me some of her delicious handmade Rice dumpling and I thought to myself that I need to seriously up my game for being a Chinese. So, here it is, my first successful Chinese Dumpling and boy are they delicious!
Traditionally, the rice dumpling uses pork as one of their meat in the fillings. I am not a big fan of pork meat so I opted for a chicken thigh (being the part of the poultry that is the most tender and juicy)
As I was researching on the best inclusions to put in this dumpling, I find that there are a lot of varieties and options out there. The most common type of fillings to include for this dumpling that I am familiar with are the Hokkien style sticky rice dumpling that has shitake mushrooms, Chinese sausage (lap cheong), black eye peas, chestnuts, and dried shrimps.
Lap Cheong - Chinese Sausage
Chinese Sausage (a.k.a. Lap Cheong) to the Chinese is like salami to the Europeans. It is often made from the leg of the pork with some fat added for flavour, cured, seasoned and sweetened then air dried. Unlike the Europeans Salami, Chinese Sausage is a lot sweeter and instead of enjoying them with cheese or bread, Chinese sausage is used in Chinese cooking like fried rice, noodles, pancakes and of course in this savoury sticky rice dumpling.
Over seasoning your ingredients
The trick to making a tasty sticky rice dumpling is to over season your rice and fillings. Over seasoning is actually what makes this dumpling packed full with flavours. My first batch of dumplings before this post was slightly bland since I actually discarded the left over marinate sauce for the chicken thinking that "no way I am adding them in", so this time I made sure I packed them in!
Bamboo Leaves for wrapping
These sticky rice dumpling are wrapped in bamboo leaves that you can either buy fresh from some Asian market but they come in as dried leaves in packets as well that you can easily find in any true Asian supermarket. If you are using the dried leaves like myself, you will need to soak them in water overnight to soften. The dried leaves do come in different sizes though and I believe the one I am using is actually a medium size.
Shape of the sticky rice dumpling
I have seen rice dumpling wrapped in different shapes like a tube for instance but the ones that are most common is shaped like a pyramid.
How do you cook Sticky Rice Dumpling?
After the sticky rice is soaked in the water overnight, it is toss over the frying pan with its seasoning to fragrant. Once filled in into the bamboo leaves and shaped with the meat filling the dumpling is submerge in boiling water and cooked for a quite long period of time. For this dumpling, it took me approximately 2 hours. If the dumpling you are making is particularly larger in size, you may need longer cooking time.
If you think this is arduous, wait... I actually have a good news for yous out there that have pressure cooker at home. If you have a pressure cooker, you can omit the step for soaking the rice overnight and cook the dumpling in the pressure cooker for less than an hour!
Yield: 8 - 10 small dumpling depending on the size you are making them
300 g Glutinous rice
Marinate for Rice
2 tbs Vegetable Oil
5 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Tbs Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp. Oyster Sauce
1 tsp. Sugar
Marinate for Chicken
250 g Chicken Thigh- cut in small chunks
2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Light Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
2 tbsp Chinese Xiao Xing Wine
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
40 g Dried Shimp - Soaked
5 Shittake Mushroom - sliced
1 Chinese Sausage - Sliced
1 tbsp. Minced Galic
1/2 cup Dried Shallots
Note: You can or omit ingredients for the fillings to your own preference. If I could, I would have added dried abalone as well!
Cut the chicken thigh in small chunks then toss in with the marinating ingredients for the chicken. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
Soak the glutinous rice flour with water with 2 cm above the rice and leave to soak overnight.
For the Chicken filling
Heat up a frying pan with the oil then toss in the garlic until fragrant. Transfer the marinated chicken into the frying pan and continue to cook until the chicken start to form a crust on the outside.
Stir in the slice shitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage and toss in the frying pan until the mushrooms soften. Pour in the rest of the remaining marinating sauce and continue to cook. Add in the dried shallots and continue to cook until the chicken are cooked through.
Transfer the cooked chicken filling into a bowl and leave to completely cool.
For the Rice
Strain the glutinous rice from the water.
Heat up the frying pan then toss in the minced garlic until fragrant, then toss in the strained soaked glutinous rice followed by the marinate ingredients and toss to combine. Continue to cook until the rice starts to become sticky.
Transfer the rice into a bowl and leave to completely cool for assembly.
Note: At this point, the rice is still slightly undercooked. The rice will be cooked further once the dumpling is assembled where you will need to boil the dumpling before serving.
Complete Assembly Guideline
The night before, soak the16 bamboo leaves in water to soften. The next day, remove the water from the leaves and pat the leaves dry. Cut the two edges off (optional).
Over lap two of the leaves together then fold the two sides lengthwise to the top creating a parcel shaped like a cone.
When the rice and chicken fillings are ready, scoop some of the rice and press it to the base, fill with some of the chicken fillings then top with more of the rice and press to compact the dumpling. Once filled, fold both sides to cover the dumpling then folr the top over overlapping the dumpling. Secure with a butcher string and repeat the same process with the rest of the dumpling.
Heat a pot of water then place the dumpling into it ensuring that they are fully submerged. Continue to boil for 2 hour - 2 hours 30 minutes (the larger the dumpling the longer the cooking time will be). Once cooked, remove the dumpling from the water and cut open.
Prepared dumpling can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to consume, simply bring to room temperature then boil like the instructions above. Cooked dumpling can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Simply microwave when ready to consume.