Yup, Duan Wu or Dragon Boat festival is just round the corner - on the 5th Day of the 5th Moon (16th June). This festival is to commemorate the death of a famous Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC. Rice dumplings were thrown into the river by the local people to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.
No Chinese festival is complete without food and this wasteful throwing of dumplings into the river eventually end up with people eating the rice dumpling (zongzi) :-)
Ziongzi is a traditional dumpling, pyramid-shaped or otherwise, made of glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves (traditional) or with large pandan leaves (localised in South East Asia). The filling can be savoury or sweet. The type of filling and the shape of the dumpling depends on the dialect group of the family making them.
Another type of zongzi is the alkaline rice dumpling (jianshuizong) which tends to be much smaller and eaten dipped in palm sugar syrup or plain caster sugar. The best jianshuizong I have eaten were from the roadside stalls in Bangkok's Chinatown. The dumplings are tiny ones that can be eaten in a single bite and so delicious that each time I eat jianshuizong in Malaysia or Singapore, I am always disappointed that it is not as nice as the ones in Thailand!!
This year, the first batch of savoury zongzi just arrived this morning - courtesy of my 3rd brother's family. As we are Hakkas, the traditonal filling normally includes pork, mushroom, chestnut, peanuts, and dried prawns. We always eat with palm sugar syrup!! For the next two weeks, there will be a lot more zongzi from all the family members and it will be rice dumpling galore! Yummy!!!