Zongzi (or simply zong) (Chinese: 粽子) is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. Laotians, Thais, and Cambodians (known as nom asom) also have similar traditional dishes. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings. In Indonesia and Malaysia, they are known as bakcang, bacang, or zang (Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-chàng), a loanword from Hakka, a Chinese dialect commonly used among Indonesian-Chinese, rather than Mandarin. Along the same lines, zongzi are more popularly known as machang among Chinese Filipinos.
Zongzi are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Mandarin: Duānwǔ; Cantonese: Tuen Ng), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June), commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body. Another version states that zongzi were given to placate a dragon that lived in the river.
The shape of zongzi range from being relatively tetrahedral in northern China to cylindrical in southern China. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Like tamale-making in Mexico and Pamonha-making in Brazil, making zongzi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.
While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, canna, shell ginger and pandan leaves sometimes are used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice.
The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice" or "sweet rice"). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using.
Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is made prior to being added, along with the fillings. However, as the modes of zongzi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of zongzi at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.
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Zong Zi - the Traditional Chinese Food, chinesefood.about.com
Zongzi: Eating China, globetrotterdiaries.com
Making ZongZi (Bamboo Rice Wraps), www.youtube.com