This time of year is filled with celebration. Or at least that’s how we think of it: school’s out for the summer and we celebrate our mothers, graduates, and our nation’s fallen heroes. May, specifically, is also a time of celebration for our artisans in China. They shared with us some pictures and stories from their recent Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival is a Chinese lunar celebration that occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It is one of China’s longest celebrated traditions. At the center of the festival are the dragon boat races, where boats decorated like dragons race to a drumbeat. Historically, the race and the drumbeat were attempts to rescue a patriotic poet, Chu Yaun, from being eaten by the river dragons. Yaun drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Today, Chinese citizens throw Tzung Tzu, bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice, into the Mi Low River so that fish can eat the rice instead of the heroic Yaun. Eating these dumplings has also become a tradition during the Dragon Boat Festival. The celebration is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. When the festival ends, it marks the beginning of good luck, good health, and summertime. We wanted to share with you what our friends around the world are doing. This festival reminds us of the Dragon Planter, a product made by the very artisan who told us about the festival. And here’s the recipe for Tzung Tzu, in case you want to make some for yourself!
How to make Tzung Tzu: Makes 20 dumplings Ingredients: 40 large bamboo leaves (2 for each zongzi), 20 long strings (for binding leaves), 1 kg (2.2 Ib) uncooked glutinous rice, 2 kg (4.4 Ib) fatty pork, sliced into 3 cm (1″) cubes, 10 salted duck’s egg yolk, shelled, cut into halves, 40 small dried shittake (black) mushrooms, 20 dried chestnuts, 10 stalks of scallions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2″) lengths, 500 g (18 oz) dried radish diced very finely, 100 g (3.5 oz) very small dried shrimp, 200 g (7 oz) raw peanuts (shelled, with skins), 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup rice wine, Vegetable oil, 5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 2 pieces star anise. Directions:1. Soak rice in water for three hours. Drain. 2. Stew pork and chestnuts for 1 hour in soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and star anise. Set aside pork and chestnuts in bowl. 3. Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour). 4. Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and cut off stalks. Stir-fry with a little liquid from stew. 5. Set aside in bowl. 6. Shell and halve duck eggs. Set aside in bowl. 7. Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with some 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic. 8. Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant. 9. Stir-fry shrimp very quickly. 10. In a large wok or bowl, add rice, then add spring onions, radish, shrimp, peanuts. Mix together well. Wrapping Tzung Tzu 1. Rinse bamboo leaves in hot water to tenderize, before washing thoroughly in cold water. Wet strings to make them more pliable. 2. Take 2 leaves and overlap them. About two-thirds of way along the length of the leaves, place one hand underneath, make a cup shape with the leaves. 3. Add a small amount of rice mixture, then add 1 piece of pork to the center of the rice. Add more rice on top, compressing slightly. 4. Now repeat this process, in turn adding 1 each: chestnut, mushroom, half a duck egg, followed by a layer of rice until you have a full rice ball in your hand. 5. Wrap leaves tightly around the ball of rice. 6. Dumplings should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. It takes some practice to make nice looking ones. 7. Tzung Tzu are tied up just like shoes laces with a double knot which makes them easy to open. 8. Steam for 1 hour, unwrap, and serve.