This month China Daily published my latest column with a Dragon Boat Festival theme — Zongzi more than just a summer holiday treat. Here’s an excerpt:
How to hold a reed leaf was just one of the things I learned one evening in my mother-in-law’s kitchen in rural Zhejiang province, as she schooled me and my husband Jun in a delicious family tradition.
“Like this,” she said, cupping the leaf like a cone, a gesture we tried to imitate by subtly adjusting our own hands.
Next, we learned how much glutinous rice to add, watching her scoop a measuring cup of the grains into her reed leaf before we did the same. Then came the honey dates－only two, she said, placed right in the center and covered by more rice, before wrapping it up with the leaf followed by lengths of string.
Our new creations landed in my mother-in-law’s bamboo steamer, transforming them within minutes into that distinctive holiday snack known as zongzi, or rice dumplings.
Except, these zongzi weren’t made for that summer holiday in June.
Instead, we had bundled up in down jackets and layers of clothing, warming our hands in turns over the wok as we prepared the treats in the chilly night air, to welcome the arrival of Chinese New Year.
It might seem strange for zongzi, the quintessential Dragon Boat Festival snack, to appear in this winter holiday more associated with jiaozi dumplings. But for some reason, zongzi has transcended these traditional Dragon Boat Festival roots, to become a beloved food at nearly every important gathering in my husband’s family in Zhejiang.
Read the full piece here — and if you like it, share it!