If it’s around the month of May or June and you happen to see dragon boats racing along your local rivers, then it’s probably the time for zongzi. Zongzi-s are these bamboo-wrapped glutinous rice packets, traditional filled with pork, Chinese sausage, beans and peanuts and a salted duck egg. They’re fragrant, flavorful and comforting.

So legend has it that there was this Chinese patriot by the name of Qu Yuan. He unsuccessfully warned his king of the Chu kingdom against the expansionism of the Qin kingdom. Anyways, a Qin general ended seizing the king and the Chu capital. Qu Yuan was so upset that he drowned himself in a river. Countrymen tried to save his body, but was unsuccessful, so in trying to prevent the fish to eat up Qu Yuan’s body, villagers threw packets of rice (zongzi) into the river. And there you go!

So back to the recipe - this is a recipe that requires a lot of preparation. The bamboo leaves and filling should all be prepared a day ahead. A redeeming quality of making a lot of these is after you steam them they can be frozen and eaten throughout the year.

Probably the most difficult part of the recipe is in wrapping the zongzi. I have highlighted both the “rectangular” zongzi packet method as well as the “triangular” zongzi wrapping method. I’m not going to lie, even though the rectangular method requires an extra leaf to wrap, it is hands down the better method. It is easier to wrap and there will not be any holes or gaps to let water seap through when it is being cooked. (Check out the video for the wrapping technique.)

The other tips are to make sure and add a bit of oil to the rice. This prevents the sticky rice from sticking to the bamboo leaf later. Also, cut the sides of the bamboo leaf prior to wrapping. This eliminates any tough and sharp bits of the leaf, which will help immensely when you are wrapping. Pack the packets tight with ingredients and you should be good to go.

Vegan Zongzi

(Makes 6-8)

  • 24-30 dried bamboo or reed leaves
  • 2 cups glutinous rice
  • 1/2 cup mung beans, peeled
  • 4 shitake mushrooms, dried
  • 1 cup vegan meat chunks or jackfruit
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots
  • 1 cup squash or sweet potates, cubed
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks

Meat and Mushroom Marinade:

  • 1/4 teaspoons five spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vegan oyster sauce

Rice Seasoning:

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Wash bamboo leaves and put into a large pot with water. Bring water to a boil and simmer leaves for 30 minutes. Drain and soak bamboo leaves in cold water for at least 4 hours or best, overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, add enough water to cover the glutinous rice, mung beans, and shiitake mushrooms. Leave for at least 4 hours or overnight to rehydrate.
  3. To marinate the faux meat, mix the faux meat, five spice powder, white pepper, salt, Shaoxing wine, sugar, soy sauce and vegan oyster sauce together. Once the mushrooms are hydrated enough, add it to this mixture. Leave for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Drain the liquid from the rice, mung beans and mushrooms. Add the salt, soy sauce and oil seasoning to the rice and mix around.
  5. Dry bamboo leaves and with the shiny side up, place 2 bamboo leaves on top of one another. Follow the wrapping technique from the video for the rectangular or triangular zongzi. Once wrapped, tie with string.
  6. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and lower heat. Cook for 4 hours until rice is soft.
  7. Cut string, unwrap zongzi and serve with soy sauce.