Bamboo-wrapped Chicken and Glutinous Rice (Zong-zi)


Zong-zi is traditionally eaten on Duan Wu Jie, the Dragon Boat Festival to mark the fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar in 277 bc. The poet Chu Yuan was loved and greatly respected by the people of China. Many mourned his death by throwing cooked rice wrapped in bamboo leaves (known as zong-zi), into the river so that the fish would not feed on his corpse. On this memorable occasion, dragon boat races are held and zong-zi is eaten. Traditionally there are both sweet and savory fillings. A sweet one would be red bean paste; savory would be egg yolk with soy-braised pork belly. This modern adaptation was given to me by my grandmother and it is our family version of savory zong-zi. They make great meals or snacks served with soy sauce or sweet chili jam. They can also be frozen and reheated for when you get a craving. Enjoy!

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes


For the Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 large skinless chicken breast, cut into even-sized chunks
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 4 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, stalks discarded, finely chopped
  • oz dried baby shrimp, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
  • oz toasted cashew nuts
  • 3 cups cooked glutinous rice ( cups washed glutinous rice cooked in 2 cups water)
  • 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 pinches of Chinese five-spice powder
  • 12 bamboo leaves (or lotus leaves), soaked in cold water then blanched in boiling water

  • 6 x 12 in lengths of string


  1. For the chicken, heat a wok over high heat and add the oil. Mix the chicken pieces with the rest of the ingredients then tip into the wok and stir fry for about 2–3 minutes on high heat until browned and cooked. Remove and set aside.
  2. Wipe out the wok with paper towels, reheat and add the oil. Throw in the ginger, garlic, shallots and soaked mushrooms and stir fry for less than 1 minute. Add the dried shrimp and cashew nuts and stir fry for less than 1 minute. Add the cooked rice and mix all the ingredients well. Season with light soy sauce, sesame oil and five-spice powder and give a final stir. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Select two bamboo leaves, one small and one large. Place the smaller leaf on the larger one with the pointed end of the leaves at opposite ends. Fold the leaves in half, cup them in your hand and fold one edge of the leaves down so that they form a conical shape in your palm. With the leaves pointing towards you, wet your other hand and scoop some of the rice mixture into the cup. Top with 2–3 chicken pieces, then add more rice mix to fill.

    Wrap the other end of the leaves around the opening to form a closed pyramid. Take a piece of string, loop it around the triangular corner of the wrapped rice and wrap around the bamboo parcel twice, tying it to secure. Repeat to make 6 parcels.

  4. The zong-zi are then ready to eat. To reheat and ensure real flavor, place the parcels in a bamboo steamer. Fill a wok or pan with boiling water to a depth that will not immerse the base of the steamer and steam for 2–3 minutes. Alternatively, place in a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes. Serve with soy sauce or Sweet Chili Jam.