Cantonese rice dumplings 鹹肉糉are one of my kids’ favorite Chinese food. Around May to June, the local markets in Hong Kong will sell many rice dumplings.
My kids love them. They love the warm sticky rice with delicious pork belly and salted egg yolks. I’m glad they have learned to enjoy eating and even making Cantonese rice dumplings together.
In this blog post, we’ll learn about rice dumplings, how to make them with kids, and there is a FREE recipe (at the bottom of this post) for you to follow. Enjoy.
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Table of Contents
What is Rice Dumpling Festival?
Rice Dumpling Festival is also called the Dragon Boat Festival/ Tuen Ng Festival (端午節/端午节/duān wǔ jié /dyun1 ng5 zit3).
It’s another traditional Chinese festival honoring the memory of Qu Yuan. The festival is about his life and death, historical stories, food, and activities.
Why do we eat rice dumplings?
A long time ago, in the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty of China (c. 340–278 BC), there was a famous poet and a royal minister who loved his country.
His name was Qu Yuan 屈原(qū yuán / wat1 jyun4).
During his service, the king decided not to listen to Qu Yuan and to trust and ally himself with the opposing force.
As a result, the king exiled Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan later heard about an attack on his country. During the attack, the king died. Qu Yuan was so heartbroken he committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.
After the news of Qu Yuan’s death spread, the locals who admired Qu Yan so much wanted to retrieve his body by boat. They also made sticky rice balls and dropped them in the river, so the fish would eat the rice balls and not Qu Yuan’s body. They also played drums to scare the fish away.
Those sticky rice balls became the rice dumplings that we eat.
When can you eat rice dumplings?
Rice dumplings are usually eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. Which is around the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar.
Rice dumplings became an item of dim sum and breakfast in Hong Kong as well as Southern China. It’s comfort food for Chinese people.
What is Rice Dumpling?
Rice dumplings are glutinous rice and different ingredients wrapped in bamboo leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling.
How do we eat rice dumplings?
- After steaming the rice dumplings put them on a plate.
- Use scissors to cut the strings/twine and unwrap the bamboo leaves.
- Then, use chopsticks to eat.
My mom taught us to eat the savory rice dumplings with soy sauce, and the sweet ones with white sugar.
My kids love to add white sugar to every type of rice dumplings. It is their favorite part.
Different Style of rice dumplings
The filling of a rice dumpling can vary from region to region. Northern style tends to be sweet, and Southern-style tends to be savory.
- Sweet rice dumplings: red bean, horse bean, date, red bean, date paste, mung bean
- Savory rice dumplings: pork, sausage, ham, dried shrimp, and diced meat
Common Types of Fillings
- Salted egg yolk
- Pork belly
- Lotus seeds
- Red bean paste
- Mung bean
- Chinese black mushroom
- Dried Scallops
Our Experience Making Rice Dumplings
Guess what? I have never made rice dumplings before. My parents usually bought them from the local market. It’s so much easier and it’s not a tradition that my grandmother passed on to my mother.
Even though my mother has never made any rice dumplings. I decided to try because my kids love to eat them, and it’s a great family cultural activity.
In 2019, I bought all the ingredients, and asked one of my friend’s mother to teach me how to wrap the rice dumplings.
Preparing the ingredients wasn’t hard at all. The most challenging part is the wrapping of the rice dumplings. The bamboo leaves often break, and the filling would spill. But, after a bit of practice, we got it down and it was so much fun.
My husband even had the idea to make a new type of rice dumpling with mango and coconut milk. Which was inspired by the Thai Mango sticky rice. They were good as well.
It’s hard for my kids to wrap the rice dumplings. So they helped me trim the leaves and put the fillings in while I wrapped all the rice dumplings.
Recipe: Cantonese Style Rice Dumplings
Prep time: 30 minutes Make time: 60 minutes Cooking Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 1/2hours
Yield: 15 rice dumplings
1 kg glutinous rice
600 gm peeled mung beans
350 gm pork belly, no skin
12 salted egg yolks, halved
Marinade for pork belly:
2 tsp five-spice powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
white pepper, to taste
a dash Shaoxing wine
Seasonings for mung beans:
3 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp oil
Seasonings for glutinous rice:
4 Tbsp salt
4 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp oil
For the Bamboo Leaves:
1. Cut the edge of the bamboo leaves and soak them one day ahead overnight until softened.
2. Use a sponge or clean cloth to wipe clean both sides of eimag
3. Carefully put the leaves into a large pot. Pour boiling water to cover all the leaves. Add about 1-2 tablespoon oil, a dash of salt, and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Cook over high heat and bring it to boil. Remove from the heat and keep the lid on until warm.
4. Put a row the leaves in a plastic bag with enough moisture inside so they won’t dry out. Put the bag in the refrigerator for the next day.
(Tip: By doing so, the bamboo leaves won’t break apart as easy during wrapping.)
For the Filling:
1. Wash and cut the pork belly into chunks, about 3 cm in size. Mix with marinade and refrigerate overnight.
2. Soak mung beans for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain well and mix with seasonings.
3. Soak the rice for at least 2 hours before you make. Drain well and mix with seasonings.
4. Cut the salted egg yolks in half, set aside.
Wrapping Rice Dumplings:
7. Drain out the rice dumplings and let them cool down. Serve warm.
- Make sure the bamboo leaves are moist while sitting out because they will dry up.
- Pick the bamboo leaves which are perfect and without any holes.
- Prepare extra bamboo leaves enough as some of them might break when you are wrapping them.
- If the leaves break during wrapping, don’t panic. Place another leaf underneath it to prevent any rice and fillings from leaking out.
- Don’t tie the rice dumplings too tight, because the rice will expand during cooking.
- If your pot is not big enough, cook them in two batches.
How long can rice dumplings/zongzi last?
Rice dumplings/zongzi can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, and in the freezer for 2 months.
To reheat from the refrigerator, boil for 10-15 minutes or steam over high heat for 30 minutes.
I prefer to steam the rice dumplings, it retains more flavor.
To make sure they are cooked, I would test it with a chopstick. If the chopstick goes through with ease, it means the rice dumpling is ready to eat. If not, keep steaming it for another 5 minutes and try again.
What if I can’t make rice dumplings with my kids?
I understand it’s not easy gathering all these Chinese ingredients. Nor is it easy to find time to make rice dumplings, especially if it is all new to you.
It’s ok! You don’t have to make it if you can’t, there are other ways to celebrate and enjoy this festival with your family.
Let me show you what I did:
Chinese Art & Crafts: Origami Paper Rice Dumplings
All you need is paper and string, and then you can create paper rice dumplings with your kids.
Origami is a great activity for kids. They can play with these paper rice dumplings afterward or use them to decorate the house.
Want to know how to make these paper rice dumplings?
5-Day Lesson Plan: Dragon Boat Festival
YOU ARE GOING TO GET:
- 20+ pages of Chinese & English printable & resources
- 2 Children’s Chinese Books: Dragon Boat Festival
- Supportive Facebook Community
Let HEar What Others Say
He was very interested in making the boat and learning more about the holiday. So yes it helped add to his motivation and also gave him a break from his regular Chinese studies.
Have you tried any of the zongzi/ rice dumplings before? How’s your experience?
How are teaching and celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival promote Chinese learning at your home?
You Might be Interested:
- 7 Rice Dumplings Recipes to Make for the Dragon Boat Festival from Thermos
- Jain Shui Zong (Alkaline rice dumplings-碱水粽) from The Woks of Life
- Top 8 Dragon Boat Festival Food from China Highlights
Activities & Chinese Learning Resources for Kids
- 10 Best Ways to Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival with your Kids
Chinese Culture for Kids Series: Chinese Dragon Boat Festival – Duān Wǔ Jié 端午節 from Miss Panda Chinese
Paper Chinese Dragon Boat Race from ET Speakers from Home
8 Dragon Boat Festival 端午节 YouTube Videos in Chinese & English from Chalk Academy
- 5-Day Lesson Plan: Dragon Boat Festival
- How to Start Teaching Chinese at Home
Chinese Cultural Activities with Your Kids
- 15-Day Chinese New Year Lesson Plan
- Chinese Art & Crafts: Origami Paper Rice Dumplings
- The Best Chinese New Year Traditions and Activities to Do with Kids
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- 100+ Chinese New Year Activities for Kids to Gain Cultural Experiences
Here are simple Chinese Recipes to Make with Your Child
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This is the second 5-Day Challenge that we have done with Fortune Cookie Mom. Both have been very beneficial to our family. I am a homeschool mom of three little kids. We are not Chinese and do not speak any Chinese. With the help of Fortune Cookie Mom, we are slowly learning! The challenges have given me fun activities to do at home with the kids. Each one has reignited my kid's interest in learning. It has been a fun experience for everybody!