Zhongzi

This is how to make Taiwanese style zhongzi. This is my grandma’s recipe. Follow these instructions exactly and they’ll taste amazing.

Makes 30 zhongzi

Prep time: 37 hours

Cook time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 60 bamboo leaves
  • 5 lbs superior short grain rice (glutinous rice)
  • 5 shallots
  • 2 cups of small dried shrimp
  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • 1 lbs lean pork shoulder
  • 18 Japanese flower mushrooms
  • High quality soy sauce
  • High quality thick soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • String – 3 bundles with 12 strings per “loop”
  • One 1″ thick stick – at least 3 feet long

Preparation steps:

Active time: 4-5 hours

  1. (Day 1) Soak the bamboo leaves for 24 hours in the sink.

    Bamboo leaves
    Bamboo leaves
  2. Create 3 loops of string with 12 ends per loop. Each end should be about 1 foot long and is for 1 zhongzi. The loops go on the stick.

    Looped strings
    Looped strings
  3. (Day 2 – First 4 hours) After 24 hours, scrub each leaf’s side in the sink with one stroke using a sponge and soapy water. After washing, rinse the leaves and transfer to a large pan or pot.

    Cleaning leaves
    Cleaning leaves
  4. Dip each leaf into boiling water for only a few seconds to soften them up. Do not dip too long otherwise the flavor leeches out. Two are needed per zhongzi. Lay them flat and put something heavy and flat on the whole pile, like a cutting board, or else they’ll curl.

    Dipped leaves
    Dipped leaves
  5. Soak the mushrooms in a bowl of water and 1 tablespoon of Japanese cooking wine for 2 hours

    Soaked mushrooms
    Soaked mushrooms
  6. Soak the dried shrimp in a bowl of water and 1 tablespoon of Japanese cooking wine for 2 hours

    Soaked mini shrimp
    Soaked mini shrimp
  7. Peel the shallots and wash them quickly. Mince them into 1 cm x 1 cm pieces. Spread them out and let them air dry for an hour.
    Mince shallots
    Mince shallots

    Minced shallots
    Minced shallots
  8. Rinse the pork belly and pork shoulder then pat them dry. Cut the chunks into pieces about the size of a baby carrot as shown in the pictures. Put these chunks into a mixing bowl.
    1. Note: First cut against the muscle fiber direction when making the larger cut. Then when cutting the pieces into smaller pieces, cut with the muscle fiber direction as shown in the picture.
      Cleaned pork
      Cleaned pork
      Cut direction
      Cut direction
      Pork chunk size
      Pork chunk size

      Chunks
      Chunks
  9. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and massage them into the pork well. Set aside.
  10. Test the readiness of the mushrooms by squeezing them. They’re ready when they’re the consistency of a sponge.
  11. Remove the mushroom stem then cut the stem in half. Set the cap halves aside.

    Sliced mushroom caps
    Sliced mushroom caps
  12. Drain the shrimp and set aside.
  13. Store all prepared ingredients for the cooking steps.
    1. Note: Day 3 steps can be done during Day 2 if you’re motivated enough. If so, start soaking the rice when you start soaking everything else.

 

Cooking steps:

Time: 9 hours

  1. (Day 3) Soak the superior short grain rice (glutinous rice) for 5 hours.
  2. After soaking is done, rinse the rice until the water is clear. Drain the rice and add in 2 tablespoons of salt and mix it in.

    Rice with salt
    Rice with salt
  3. Fry the shallots on medium heat until they’re brown and start searing. Stir the entire time.

    Cooking shallots
    Cooking shallots
  4. Add the dried shrimp. Fry for 3 minutes while stirring the entire time.
  5. Add the mushroom caps and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Fry for 3 minutes while stirring the entire time.

    Cooking shallots, shrimp, and mushrooms
    Cooking shallots, shrimp, and mushrooms
  6. Remove the entire mixture to a separate container. The pan doesn’t have to be perfectly clean.
  7. Increase the heat to high then add in the pork chunks. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring the entire time.

    Cooking pork
    Cooking pork
  8. Once the pork is mostly cooked, add in the other cooked ingredients and reduce heat to 3/4 heat. Add 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of thick soy sauce. Keep stirring and cooking for 3 minutes until everything is well mixed together.

    Cooked ingredients
    Cooked ingredients
  9. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let sit for 7 minutes then remove from heat.

    Covered cooked ingredients
    Covered cooked ingredients

 

Zhongzi making steps:

Time: 2.5 hours

  1. As stated before, you’ll need 2 leaves per zhongzi. The top (sun) side of the leaf is the rice-facing side. Snip the leaf ends. Follow the pictures to see how to line them up. Proper alignment is crucial for making them well.
    Snipped ends
    Snipped ends

    Proper alignment
    Proper alignment
  2. Add the string loops onto the stick. Place the stick about head height. Sit on a low stool. Put the ingredients on some books or something. Keep your hands dry or at least free from oil. Use chopsticks and a spoon to add stuff.

    Stations and placement
    Stations and placement
  3. Create the leaf pocket by folding it like the picture.

    Folded leaf
    Folded leaf
  4. Add one spoonful of rice and create a divot.
    Spoonful
    Spoonful

    Rice divot
    Rice divot
  5. Add a mushroom half-cap.

    Mushroom first
    Mushroom first
  6. Add a pork belly piece.

    Pork belly second
    Pork belly second
  7. Add a pork shoulder piece.

    Pork shoulder third
    Pork shoulder third
  8. Add about 2 teaspoons worth of shrimp/shallot mix.

    Add shrimp/shallot mix
    Add shrimp/shallot mix with a spoon
  9. Top off those with rice. Fold the leaf over the top.

    Cover with another spoonful of rice
    Cover with another spoonful of rice
  10. When folding, the packing must be kind of tight or else everything will fall out. It should feel like mochi in terms of tightness.
    Get ready
    Get ready

    Folding time
    Folding time
  11. The leaf over extension part should equal the zhongzi length.

    Leaf fold
    Leaf fold
  12. Make sure to keep your pinky near the fold when using your palm to fold the leave over as a cap. Fold the end of the leaf to the right then tie it up using the string that looped on the stick.
    Pinky up!
    Pinky up!
    Folding step
    Folding step

    Hold the fold down
    Hold the fold down

  13. When tying the zhongzi, grandma recommends an actual knot instead of a quick-release knot. Loop it over twice (open your thumb on the first loop around) and tie it around tight. Make sure to tie over the folded leaf.
    Start high up
    Start high up

    First one down!
    First one down!

 

 

Second cooking steps:

Time: 1.5 hours

  1. Boil a large pot of water.
  2. Remove the bundles from the stick.
  3. Add all the bundles into the single pot. Grandma recommends this so that the flavor stays in one pot.
  4. About 45 minutes in, rotate the bundles so that the top one switches with the bottom one.
  5. After 1.5 hours. Remove all bundles and add the loops back onto the stick. Make sure that there’s newspaper or something underneath the bundles since they’ll drip.
  6. Enjoy!

    It's easier with two people (I helped)
    It’s easier with two people (I helped)
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