Homemade Zongzhi (肉粽)

Homemade Zongzi (肉粽) or Savory steamed sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves
Homemade Zongzi (肉粽)

A few weeks ago, I made zongzi (肉粽) for Dragon Boat Festival. This festival is a Chinese holiday that traditionally, we eat this delicious, hearty sticky rice dumpling.

Making Zongzi (肉粽) or Savory steamed sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves
Inside the homemade Zongzi (肉粽) or Savory steamed sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves Homemade Zongzi (肉粽) for Dragon Boat Festival (端午節)
Mis en place for the zongzhi and the zongzhi unwrapped

While I could easily buy zongzi since I am in New York City, there’s always my curiosity to know that I can make these delectable rice dumplings and I could use better ingredients like dried scallops (you’ll rarely see that in most zongzi) and leaner pork belly. I will admit, this is at least a two-day process to make this since some items needed to be marinated or soaked overnight.

If you feel inclined to make these traditional snacks, here’s my recipe:

Homemade Zongzhi (肉粽)
Yield: 22 zongzi

3 1/4 pounds of sweet glutinous rice
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil)

9 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces of dried mung beans
7 pieces of dried scallops

2 1/2 pounds of lean pork belly (about 85% lean)
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

10 ounces bamboo leaves
Cotton butchers twine

Day before you wrap and cook the zongzi
1. Soak the bamboo leaves overnight in a large container. Set aside.
2. Soak the dried scallops and dried shiitake mushrooms in separate small bowls overnight. Set aside.
3. Soak the sweet glutinous rice overnight in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Slice the pork belly into approximately 1/2-inch strips and marinate in a bowl with the rice wine, light soy, dark soy, five spice powder, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day of wrapping and cooking the zongzi
1. Drain the water from the sweet glutinous rice. Add the 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Set aside.
2. Individually, drain the water from the scallops, shiitake mushrooms, and bamboo leaves. Slice the mushrooms in half. Set these ingredients aside.
3. Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Set aside.
4. To fill wrap: Take two bamboo leaves, shiny side up and the points overlaps the other leaf (about halfway). Hold the center of the leaves, bend and fold the leaves toward upward that the leaves meet toward the middle and it forms a cone at the area you’re holding the leaves.
4a. Fill the cone with about 2 tablespoons of rice, 1 tablespoon of mung beans, 2 slices of pork, dried scallop, and shiitake mushrooms. You may vary the amounts of mung beans, pork, and shiitake mushrooms but be mindful that you cannot overfill it or it will not wrap tightly. (The filling should not past the edge of the cone.) Fold down the Take a long piece of twine (at least 18 inches) wrap the twine around the zongzhi tightly to make sure the zongzhis don’t fall apart while it’s cooking, make a small, tight knot once it’s wrapped. Set aside and repeat this until you’ve used up all of your filling.
(For visual guidance, a better produced YouTube video I found is this to show you how to fill it.)
5. Find your largest stockpot and place your zongzhis into it (fill it up to 3-5 inches from the top of the pot) and fill the pot full of water so your zongzhis are submerged completely with water with an additional inch of water on top. Place the pot on your cooktop and bring it to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Turn the fire down to a medium (the water should still be bubbling but not as violent) for another 2 hours and 35 minutes.
6. Enjoy immediately or you may freeze excess zongzhis in freezer top bags for a good 4-6 months. Just defrost until it’s soft and then microwave the zongzhi until it’s heated thoroughly.


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Hungry says:

    Your dedication to recreated these Chinese delicacies really inspire me to do my own. Thank you for this post.

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