Making Zongzi (粽子: zòngzi)

A traditional snack eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival in early summer each year, Zongzi are sticky rice bundles wrapped in bamboo leaves. They have a wide range of fillings depending on the region of China – from savoury roast pork zongzi in Fujian province to sweet jujube and red bean zongzi in North Eastern China.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival (also known as the duanwu festival – 端午节 duānwǔjié) takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, typically around the summer solstice. The most popular activities during the festival are dragon boat racing and making zongzi.

There are several theories for the origin of the festival. One suggestion, rooted in ancient superstition, is that the festival aims to scare away evil spirits during the unlucky fifth month. Another, more popular, theory is that it commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan, who died by drowning himself in a river – the dragon boats and tasty snacks representing the people’s attempts to rescue him. Similar stories say that the festival is in memory of the politician Wu Zixu (died 484 BC) or shaman Cao E (died 144 AD), both of whom also died by drowning. Finally, some evidence suggest it was actually originally a traditional festival worshiping the dragon king, over which Confucianists superimposed a new festival celebrating Confucian martyrs to strengthen their influence. 

Recipe and Video

Making zongzi is surprisingly simple, but does require some preparation! There are many different fillings and versions so do feel free to adapt this recipe according to your taste. Some examples include this simple red dates zongzi recipe, or this delicious savoury pork belly version

Ingredients (for 10 zongzi)

  • 30 bamboo leaves (2 per zongzi plus plenty spare in case they tear)
  • 600 g glutinous rice
  • Filling (e.g. pork, salted egg yolk, mushrooms, red beans, jujube, etc.)
  • Kitchen string

Step by step instructions

Step 1: Prepare leaves / rice

The night before, soak the bamboo leaves in water to soften – you may need to put a plate on top to weigh down the leaves so they are fully submersed.

Similarly, place the rice in a large bowl and cover with excess water overnight. 

Step 2: Cook the filling

If you are using a meat filling, you will need to cook the meat first.

To create a more authentic flavour, marinate in soy sauce and five spice, adding a dash of salt and sugar to taste. 

Step 3: Fold the zongzi

This is the most difficult bit! Carefully fold the bamboo leaves into a cone shape, fill with the glutinous rice and a scoop of filling, then tie shut with some kitchen string. This video might help!

Step 4: Boil

Add the zongzi to a pan of boiling water (you may need to place a plate on top to keep them all submerged) and boil for around 3-4 hours. 

Once they’re cooked, simply peel off the bamboo leaves and enjoy!


Congratulations on your delicious zongzi! Please do share your creations with us – tag @abridgeacademy on instagram for a feature!

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