上海鲜肉粽子 (Shang Hai Xian Rou Zong Zi) translates to Shanghai pork zong zi. What is this strange pyramid shaped thing? It’s a gift. It’s breakfast. It’s comfort food to be devoured in celebration for 端午节 (Duan Wu Jie), or Dragonboat Festival. This year, it falls on June 20th, this upcoming Saturday. Visit any Chinese supermarket and you’ll find vacuum packed zongzi. Or, you can make it simply at home.I call Zongzi a gift because it’s always been one to me. I used to think it was the coolest food in the world – that you are presented with a neat fragrant package, smoke still curling up from the zongzi, completely with two bows to untie. Despite scalding fingers, I’d always quickly undo the bows with one quick tug and then gently unfold the sticky rice from the bamboo leaves. When you unfold it, it literally tumbles out onto your plate. My mom always sent me with a bag of these to give to cousins, my best friend’s family, my boyfriend (now husband)’s family – anyone who would care for some zongzi. Very quickly, they became famous. They were my mom’s thing. Actually, along with the shaomai she would always freeze and send along with me to college, these zongzi also made their way from California to St Louis, and I had such pleasure not only eating them, a mouthful of comfort and memories away from home, but also introducing this uncommon treat to my friends. If you’re in the Boston area, let me know and I’ll send you away with a bag of these as well :). Shanghai style zongzi is distinctive because they are smaller and usually only have pork belly. In this recipe, I chose to just use pork butt in the interest of staying a tiny bit healthier (don’t start!). My mom used to make it with pork belly as well, and you make it in the exact same way. However, the result is different – the fat from the pork belly melts into the rice and the rice, like a sponge, just takes on that distinctive flavor and taste. Using pork butt doesn’t quite give that melty pudding-like texture, but I’d say the taste is similar enough. There are so many different types of zongzi. The Woks of Life published the Cantonese style zongzi, which has peanuts, chinese sausage, and egg yolks. There’s another type of Shanghai style zongzi that is sweet. Because no soy sauce is used, the resulting zongzi is a pearly white but stuffed with either mung beans or red bean paste. Sometimes it’s even dipped in a plate of sugar before eating. This is entirely personal preference, but my favorite is the simple, pork zongzi. Nothing but sticky rice and marinated pork. Bamboo leaves are a must. It’s not zongzi without being wrapped in bamboo leaves. You can find dried bamboo leaves in any Chinese supermarket.
First step: The night before, soak both the bamboo leaves and the sticky rice in cold water, submerged. You can also marinate the meat, but that is up to you. I marinated it for 2 hours. The hardest part about this recipe is the wrapping process. As usual, I took an excessive amount of photos because I want to truly let you see this process. So, please bear with me as I try to explain, step by step, this intricate but timeless wrapping process.
Trip the ends – about 1″ off.
Place them on top of each other, with an offset. Use your thumbs to make an indent and fold over to make a cone.
Grab a handful of marinated sticky rice and stuff it in the cone. I always try to reach for the sticky rice at the bottom, because it’s more submerged in the marinade.
Place a couple pieces of pork on top.
And just cover again with another handful of rice! Wrap by folding the leaves over and then wrapping the overhanging edges over the zongzi.Use your left hand’s thumb and pinky to hold the overhanging leaves in place, and then use kitchen twine to tie leaves in place, twice. I use my teeth to old one edge then use the whole ball to wrap the loop several times. After this, just wrap the rest of the zongzi up! I always end up with more than enough pork, but that’s simple: place it in a saucepan with some star anise and some extra water (about half way up the meat) and bring it to a boil. Then turn to low and simmer, covered, until fork-tender. Delicious with rice. After all the zongzi are wrapped, place them in a large stockpot and submerge them in water. Bring to a boil and then turn to low and simmer, covered for 8 hours. The water should be gurgling but not at a full rolling boil. And then enjoy!! Your kitchen will be permeated with the aromatic, heady smell of pork and bamboo.
- If the leaves rip, discard it and use a new one
- You don’t need to tie it too tightly – just secure enough that it won’t fall apart
- I like to do it in a half bow shoelace style so that when you’re eating it, you can just tug on one string and it comes apart
- This makes a pretty small batch – about 8 zongzi. If you are giving these out by the bagful, then I’d recommend at least doubling the recipe! You can keep the pork + marinade amount the same, as you’ll have extra
- For remaining marinaded pork: Place in a saucepan, fill it up halfway with water, throw in some star anise and whatever other flavoring you want, and bring to a boil. Then, turn to low and simmer, covered, until fork tender. I generally just let it go for 2-3 hours!
RECIPE: 上海鲜肉粽子 Shanghai Style Pork ZongZi
Full disclosure: this recipe is from my mom!!! But when I made it, Alex loved it and ate most of it, but he said he could immediately could tell it was different. I’m OK with it, because I know my mom’s version is the golden standard, and I could only ever hope to recreate something from her :). Chinese cooking is very instinctual. My mom never gives me recipes but just shows me how to do it. From then, I play around with proportions until it tastes similar :).
dried bamboo leaves, soaked overnight
3 cups sticky rice, soaked overnight
1lb pork butt (boneless)
marinade for pork
1/4 – 1/2 cup light soy sauce
3 heaping tsp granulated sugar
3 slices fresh ginger
4 fresh scallions, chopped roughly
3 tbsp shoaxing cooking wine
marinade for sticky rice
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1| The night before: soak bamboo leaves and sticky rice in cold water, submerged, overnight.
2| Cut pork butt into 2″ x 1cm pieces, and remove most of the fat. Marinade for 1-2 hours, or overnight.
3| Drain sticky rice and place in marinade for 1 hour.
4| Wrap according to instructions above
5| Place wrapped zongzi in a large stockpot, covered with water. Bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer, covered, for 8 hours.
6| Turn off heat and leave, covered, in the cooking water, until the next morning.
7| Rinse zongzi and let drain for an hour. Then, store in fridge or freeze
8| To reheat: boil or steam, or microwave!
black walnut board by Michael’s Woodcraft