Like all folk festivals and celebrations, the Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu, has its own special cuisine. Zongzi is a sticky rice dumpling wrapped in leaves of bamboo or other plants. Let's go to Jiaxing city, one of China's biggest producer of this seasonal delicacy.
Jiaxing is an ancient city in East China's Zhejiang province. For centuries, local farmers have been known for their skills at making Zongzi. The local climate is suitable for growing all the raw materials and the city has developed a sizable Zongzi production industry.
The fillings for the dumplings vary from place to place but the rice used is always sticky rice. Sometimes the rice is precooked. Also it can simply be soaked beforehand. Fillings may be sweet, such as mashed red beans, or savory, and may include pork, sausages, mushrooms, salted egg, and chestnuts. Some types of Zongzi contain no filling at all, in which case they are usually eaten with sugar or sauce.
The rice dumpling is usually a pyramid of rice which encloses the filling and wrapped in plant leaves. Bamboo leaves are perhaps the most common, but lotus, maize, banana, and canna leaves are also options. Wrapping a dumpling neatly is a skill which is passed down through families, as are the Chinese recipes. Dumpling-making is usually a family event with everyone helping out.
Even today, Jiaxing's Zongzi makers still make the traditional treat by hand. All of the one hundred or so producers of the specialty depend on the skill of their workers. Each year, the city produces more than 1.5 billion Zongzi, which are sold across the world.
(CCTV May 28, 2009)