Elongated "southern-style" zongzi with adzuki bean filling
Alternative name(s) bakcang, bacang, zang, nom asom
Place of origin China
Region or state Chinese-speaking areas
Dish details
Main ingredient(s) Glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves
Variations Chimaki, Lotus leaf wrap, Bánh tẻ, Bánh tét, Bánh chưng
Chinese 粽子 or 糉
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 肉粽

Zongzi (or simply zong) (Chinese: ) is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. Laotians, Thais, and Cambodians (known as nom asom) also have similar traditional dishes. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings. In Indonesia and Malaysia, they are known as bakcang, bacang, or zang (Chinese: 肉粽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-chàng), a loanword from Hakka, a Chinese dialect commonly used among Indonesian-Chinese, rather than Mandarin. Along the same lines, zongzi are more popularly known as machang among Chinese Filipinos.



Making (and eating) zongzi
Zongzi tied with leaves

Zongzi are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Mandarin: Duānwǔ; Cantonese: Tuen Ng), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June), commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.[1]


The shape of zongzi range from being relatively tetrahedral in northern China to cylindrical in southern China. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill that is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Making zongzi is traditionally a family event of which everyone helps out.

While traditional zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, canna, shell ginger and pandan leaves sometimes are used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice.

The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice" or "sweet rice"). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using.


Northern-style (left) and Southern-style (right) zongzi

Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is made prior to being added, along with the fillings. However, as the modes of zongzi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of zongzi at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.

Jianshui zongzi without fillings


  • Jia zong (假粽): Instead of glutinous rice, balls of glutinous rice flour (so no individual grains of rice are discernible) are used to "contain" the fillings of the zongzi. These zongzi are typically smaller than most, and are much stickier.
  • Jianshui zong (碱水粽): Meaning "alkaline water zong," these are typically eaten as a dessert item rather than as part of the main meal. The glutinous rice is treated with lye water (aqueous sodium carbonate), or potassium carbonate, giving them their distinctive yellow color. Jianshui zong typically contain either no filling or are filled with a sweet mixture, such as sweet bean paste. Sometimes, a certain red wood sliver (shu mok) is inserted for color and flavor. They are often eaten with sugar or light syrup.
  • Nyonya zong (娘惹粽): A specialty of Peranakan cuisine, these zongzi are made similarly as southern zongzi. However, the wrapping used is pandan leaves.
  • Taiwan zongzi (臺灣粽): The northern Taiwanese zongzi (北部粽) are wrapped with husks of "Phyllostachys makinoi" bamboo (桂竹籜), then steamed; southern Taiwanese zongzi (南部粽) are wrapped with leaves of "Dendrocalamus latiflorus Munro" bamboo, AKA Bambusa oldhamii (麻竹葉), then are boiled.

See also


External links

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