Home Comforts: Zongzi 粽子 Recipe

by Stephanie Hannington-Suen

Zongzi also known as sticky rice parcels are a household favourite in our family. They are usually eaten during Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional Chinese festival that commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, where families get together to race decorative dragon boats and eat delicious street food. However, we like to eat them anytime of year. Perfect to make a large batch ahead of time and to store in the freezer when you need a quick meal.

My favourite thing about this dish is the aroma of the bamboo leaves and the flavour that is infused into the rice. This recipe is the Shanghai style version as my mum is from there. She loves to make a huge batch of these whenever we see her so that we can take them away with us. Here are some photos of her preparing them for us while we stayed with her in Manchester.

To make the Zongzi you will need the following:
75-80 dried bamboo leaves (2 to 3 leaves per zongzi)
225g uncooked short grain sticky rice (also called glutinous rice, or “sweet rice”)
1500g sustainably sourced pork belly (and/or pork shoulder)
Kitchen twine to tie the zongzi

For the pork marinade, you’ll need:
¼ cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
5cm of fresh ginger
5 sprigs of spring onion
¼ cup water (you may not need this, but if you do, you’ll add 2 tablespoons at a time)

For the rice marinade, you’ll need:
5 tablespoons light soy sauce
5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1½ tablespoons sugar
2½ tablespoons salt


Start by prepping the bamboo leaves. Trim the ends, so that you have a nice straight edge. Place them in a large pan and fill with water and a splash of oil so that they don’t stick together. You want to weigh them down while you cook them to ensure they’re always in the water. Bring them to the boil and then simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.




While the leaves are softening, begin preparing the filling. Start by washing the rice and then adding the marinade. Prepare the pork by cutting into bite size pieces and marinade it with the ginger, spring onion and sauces. It’s easier to mix by using your hands, when working with larger quantities.



By the time you finish marinating the filling, the bamboo leaves will be ready. Carefully strain these and run them under cold water so that they’re easier to work with. The next stage, is the most difficult part, but after lots of practice it will become second nature to you.



Grab the first leaf and fold the end to create a v shape. Then grab the second leaf and place underneath the first leave V. One you’ve created this V cup, fill half way first with rice, then the pork filling and then the remainder of the rice. Once this is done, fold the leaves over the filling, as shown in the 3rd picture.



Then wrap it around to create a pyramid. Once this is done, wrap it round with the string, making sure to do this tightly so none of the filling falls out.



Once you’ve used up all the filling, place them in a pan tightly with cold water, ensuring you fill all the gaps. Then bring the water to the boil and once boiling, simmer for at least 5 hours. It’s a long time, but it’s worth it.

After the 5 hours, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Simply grab one, unwrap and enjoy. I like to add an extra splash of light soy sauce for an extra hit of saltiness. Whenever we’re short on time, this makes for a great dinner. Just add a side of greens and you have a full healthy and nutritious meal.