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Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival with Zongzi


Can you hear the drums beating? Can you feel the intensity in the air? Can you see the sweat building up on the paddler's brow?

I know I promised everyone one straight month of Italian yummy dishes but this is a day that we need to pay respect to local tradition here in Hong Kong and in Asia and take a quick moment for reflection.


Today here in Hong Kong it is the formal Dragon Boat Festival where everyone celebrates with family gatherings, watching the dragon boat races and eating yummy Zongzi. Actually, festivities have been going on all week but today is the actually holiday on the calendar. Come along with me to find out more about this Chinese Holiday...

The Dragon boat festival is also known as Tuen Ng Festival. Yesterday one of my dear foodie friends from Singapore explained that this festival commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago. Qu Yuan was trying to protest against the corrupt rulers. Legend has it that as townspeople attempted to rescue Qu Yuan, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating his body. Today they celebrate by making  and enjoying the zongzi (glutenous rice dumplings) instead of throwing them into the sea.


Each year many Dragon Boat racers compete to be the fastest in the competition. This is the real excitement. There are many leagues and much hard work, endurance and synchrony to get the 20-22 paddlers moving this boat quickly. Trust me I have tried it a few times and it is a lot of hard work. I found out about some new muscles I did not even know I had.


After all that hard work, you need some quick, fast and nutritious bites. Zongzi is just the perfect treat to keep your strength up for the Dragon Boat competitions. Zongzi are glutenous rice balls wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves which have many different types of goodies inside.

My dear friend Safie brought me over a few zongzi for our family enjoy today. I just finished steaming the zongzi for about 20 minutes. She brought over two different kinds for me to try. There is one type of zongzi with black bean paste, shrimp and pork.


The other zongzi has peanuts and some other items really I could not even after tasting it identify. (Not even me, and you know how I love re-engineering everything, maybe it was a chestnut?)  Both types were quite nice but I really kind of liked the one with the black bean paste. It was both sweet and savory and that was kind of nice.  This week, zongzi are being sold at almost every street corner. There are so many types and some even plain that they serve with honey.


What is your favorite kind of Zongzi? Do you have a family recipe for Zongzi?

Have a safe and Happy Dragon Boat Festival Celebration.

Take Care,




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Healthy World Cuisine (HWC) Magazine is committed to provide a lifestyle traveling culinary experience featuring fresh ingredients, easy recipe preparation and culinary enjoyment. READ MORE...

Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival with Zongzi

By HWC Magazine  ,   

June 23, 2012



  • Your photography is really getting to be book quality!

    • You are so sweet but I just have a point and shoot camera so I know that I really need to upgrade.

  • What fun! The boats are beautiful, and the zongzi looks delicious!

    • Great day but soooooo hot this week. At least the last couple of days there has been a slight breeze for all of the participants and the people going to watch the dragon boating events.

  • those are little bundles of goodness, gosh western food is just so dull sometimes. We have dragon boat races in NZ too and they are huge. My daughter used to do it every year! Mad child! c

    • Good for your daughter. It is great exercise and great teamwork and dedication. The local boaters usually blow everyone away here as they are so experienced and driven. Sometimes they get going so fast I am sure they could pull a skier from behind!

  • Dragon boat festival – sounds wonderful. The little bundles look intriguing.

    • The dragon boat festival is interesting to watch if you can get close enough to it. Sometime the best vantage point for us is to go down to Aberdeen and bargain with the sampan boat ladies for a little cruise in the harbor just near the dragon boaters but not interfering with the race.

  • Your meal looks delicious and exoticly oriental and I’m glad you celebrated such a vibrant festival 🙂
    Thank you!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • We also shared a big plate of lychee fruit… Yummy they were so sweet.

  • My mum makes the best zongzi but she wraps them differently given that She’s shanghainese. These look awesome and I wish I was at home to join in the festivities. Enjoy the celebrations!

    • It is interesting how each area has their own way of preparing these and the ingredients inside depend on the region as well. I asked my friend if she would show me how to make them and she said they were a lot of work. So bravo to your mum!

  • Yummers – Happy Saturday – Enjoy Your Day!!!

    • Thank you. There are a lot of people out and about here in HK today. May like a bizillion.

  • That looks great!

    • The best part is all I had to do was steam them for 20 minutes and ta da… dinner!

  • Look at all of the colorful streamers and flags on the Dragon boats! Even the crews are colorfully attired. They must be something to watch racing down the river. Thank goodness the weather was good. Rain, even a light shower, would have ruined some of the effect.
    I’m not at all familiar with Zongzi but that’s something I’d like to change. The ones made with shrimp, pork, and black bean paste sound delicious, BAM. I need to keep that name in mind for when I return to my favorite Chinese restaurant. 🙂

    • Just a slight gentle sprinkle on a few occasions the last couple of days here in HK, but not even an umbrella was needed. However, yesterday was quite windy and as a paddler, I know they had to pull extra hard to fight against the wind. I hope you get the chance to try a zongzi as they are really quite interesting. They are quite dense because of the glutenous rice so really one or part of one is all you really need. I ate some fresh lovely lychee fruit along with mine as it was quite nice for the perfect little dinner.

  • Anonymous

    Confirmqtion that one can Read your blog in China… But the photos are not visible unless one uses a VPN connection to bypass the government blocks….same same for Facebook…. Pity the mainlanders cant see your nice photos…..

    • Thanks for letting me know. I will do my best to try to better describe the steps in the cooking process, since they do not have pictures to help them along the way. I really wish that the people in mainland China could see my food pictures on Bam’s Kitchen, as that really is one of the best parts about reading a food website. However, I am delighted to hear that they can still read the recipes and keep in touch. Take Care, BAM

  • Great post and what a great holiday! The Zongzi sound delicious… I like the look of the pork one. By the way we have a similar boat-related tradition here in Australia. On Australia Day we have a Ferrython, a commuter ferry race on the harbour. People gather on the foreshore and watch while picnicing.

    • There are many other countries that have a very similar type of boating race. It would be fun to hop from county to country and try all the different types of picnic food served at these events. I’m sure in Australia we might see something from the “Barbie”. How great!

  • Excellent post, Bobbi…I never knew there was a Hero associated with the Dragon Boats.
    There’s a dragon boat festival in the fall up in Providence. Local businesses form teams to race, and the whole thing is a big charity fundraiser (can’t remember which cause it supports).
    Fun to watch, but no one mentions the history of the original!

    • I just learned the history about it the event the other day and am happy that I could share it with you.

  • The race looks fabulous! Don’t think I have eaten Zongzi before – they look so interestin.
    🙂 Mandy

    • They have many races throughout the week and of course they practice for this big event all year around. It is a very common sight to see dragon boaters practicing in the early mornings on weekends or late evenings after work here in HK.

  • Sounds like an extraordinary day full of excitement and color.

  • looks amazing, love all the colours in the boats 🙂
    i was surprised in china when i ate one of these and it was sweet! similar ones i’ve eaten in sydney are always savoury,

    • Each country and even each region in China makes them very differently and there are so many different kinds. I kind of like the sweet and savory combo. Very yummy!

  • I love zhong zi, I grew up eating my grandma’s home made zhong zi, with just dried shrimps, shiitake mushrooms, fatty pork (which melts in the mouth!!) and glutinous rice inside. It’s really tedious to make them! All the frying of ingredients, then the wrapping then the boiling for at least 4 hours…! I’m hoping to master them in the future… I’m glad you enjoyed eating the zhong zi!

    • 4 hours plus of labor and that is if you know what you are doing, we would have to add some extra time for the unexpected. LOL However, I did enjoy eating them very much. Let me know if you ever try to make them from scratch.

  • Your photos are great! I don’t have a favorite zongzi because I’ve never ever tried one, but I’m curious to try when I get the chance!

    • The street vendors had so many different kinds of zongzi for sale. I was in awe or maybe that was just confusion as I am learning simplified characters and everything was written in traditional characters. In addition, I noticed that at each stall they wrapped them a little differently. Each person has their own special technique. Come and take a quick visit to HK next year and you can give zongzi a try.

  • Gosh, I feel like I’ve just learned a ton! I’ve never even heard of zongzi, so thank you for sharing about it and the awesome boat tradition.

  • Looks delicious!! A friend of mine is moving to Hong Kong next month with her three children – any advice?

    • Good for her! Where would you like for me to begin? You can put her in direct contact with me at [email protected] and I can lend her a hand. I know what a big feat moving with kids can be. The first step in moving to HK with kids- GET THE SCHOOLS SECURED, then everything else falls into place. Take care, BAM

  • I love that rice dumplings, I remember when I worked in Hong Kong I always crave for that when I go back to my apartment

    • Awesome! When did you live in Hong Kong? If I could send you some zongzi, I would….but I don’t think that customs officer at the post office would like that very much…

  • for a moment, i thought you were brave enough to attempting making zhong zi on your own! I love them very much but have never attempted making them. Lots of work!!

    • I heard it is at least a 4 hour event and that is assuming that everything goes as planned. So needless to say, why make these zongzi treats from scratch when all those sweet little Cantonese ladies at the market make them so well. Take care, BAM

  • agnostichica

    I love Zongzi! My favorite one is the vegetarian version at Lock Cha. Thank you so much for the memories of dragon boat races in HK 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by. I also think the vegetarian ones are quite nice. Did the zongzi at the tea house have mushrooms? I hope you are doing well, wherever your travels may have taken you to next. Take care, BAM

  • The zhongzi look amazing… do you have a recipe for them, just a base recipe perhaps? I’d love to try it out with shrimp and some minced lean pork. Can’t handle a big piece of pork fat 🙂

    • I will ask my local friends here to see if we can get the base recipe for the zongzi for you. Sometimes they can be made just plain and people just add a drizzle of honey on the top or sometimes it is made with mushrooms and nuts. So many options. I saw this recipe on the internet and they have great directions for this complicated dish.

  • These look fantastic! The black bean paste does intrigue me and I so wish I had a bite of it right now…ok I want the whole thing. Those dragon boat races are gorgeous! I would love to get to see that and am so happy you shared that photo.

    • Have you ever tried making desserts with either sweet red bean or black bean paste? Very tasty…

  • I love celebrations of all kinds, but I’ve neve rhad the pleasure of trying Zongzi, so thank you for sharing!

    • Celebrations are very fun and love experiencing the culture. You can always count on me to be there with camera in one hand and a local foodie treat in the other. Take care, BAM

  • I’ve never been to Hong Kong, but it’s one of those places I really want to visit some day. Sounds like a wonderful place. What’s the best time of the year to visit, weather-wise? The zongzi look great! That’s a new dish to me – I’ve never heard of it. Another fun post – thanks.

    • The best month to visit Hong Kong is in November as the weather is quite good, cool and comfortable. If you ever plan to visit HK, please let me know and maybe I can give you some ideas of things to do from an inside perspective. Take Care, BAM

  • Ahhh, Zongzi! My parents are visiting at China right now, so we didn’t get any zongzi this year for the dragon boat festival holiday! I remember it was a huge deal when we lived at Taiwan, the races were always so much fun to watch. Believe it or not there are annual dragon boat races at Houston, it’s become quite mainstream, though for some reason it never happens on the right day… Anywho, I am still trying to get back to normalcy after 12 days of family vacation, completely exhausted due to all the outdoor activities we did, will try to catch up on all the postings I missed while we were gone. Have a great day Bam!

    • Welcome back and looking forward to hearing about your family adventure! Does your mom make zongzi from scratch? I heard they are pretty complicated and take at least 4 hours to prep. Take care, BAM

  • Amazing! I can practically feel the energy through your writing! Someday, I’d love to experience this festival firsthand… It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced yet. Plus, those steamed rice dumplings have so much tasty potential. The remind me of onirigi, a lunchbox favorite of mine when I was in high school!

    • Thanks Hannah for your kind comment. Fun event but be prepared for the crowds and the heat it is also like nothing you have ever experienced before. My teenage boys actually prefer onigiri hands down compared to Zongzi as they are simple with ingredients that you know and you can even buy these at the 7/11 so that counts as junk food for most teeenagers. Zongzi can sometimes be a bit of a mystery in the area of ingredients but delicious as well. Take care, BAM

  • Those boats look so fun and colorful..Beauty indeed
    Very well clicked!!
    And the rice dumplings..Yum!!! How delicious these parcels of goodness look.

    • Thank you Reem. Guess what I have soaking right now? Chawal and urad ki dhuli dal as I am going to try to make dosa for the first time with one of my dear friends from India. How fun! Take care and have a great weekend. BAM

  • Oh I so wish I was having these today instead of the soup I just cooked up.
    The boats look like lots of fun.

    • Everyone really gets into the festivities here on the waterfront. I like that part, but my favorite part is watching how the wet markets change their ingredients and items for sale based on the holiday. I know, I am predictable. Where is BAM? In the food markets of course….

  • Those dragon boats are so long, colorful and amazing looking! Only rivaled by the looks of the Zongzi!

    • Thank you. Each team wears their matching shirts and some have sponsors. Of course, on regular days of practice there are no flags or decorations, this is just for the big event. Many individuals practice both on and off the water as it really requires good fitness and dedication. I started on a team once and really loved but have an old shoulder injury that will not cooperate. So instead I get to sit on the sidelines, cheer the teams on and enjoy zongzi.

  • Hi Bam, I’ve never tried zongzi myself, but my sister-in-law (she’s Chinese) made them for my mother once when she was visiting England and my mother has decided that she’s now “addicted to zongzi” – lol… they must be wonderful 🙂

    • Its both a pro and con to like zongzi. Pro is that they are very delicious but the con is that they are usually only made around this time of the year for the special event. So we will have to wait another year to get more as these little numbers are way too labor intensive for me to make at home. Maybe your sister in law will make you some zongzi when she comes to visit you and in exchange you can make her some of your fantastic dishes. Take Care, BAM

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Hi Bam!! Ah, my husband is not Chinese enough to tell me about the seasonal event like this! I saw my friends posting about zongzi, but I’ve never even tried making it at home. My kids are definitely missing “Chinese” part of roots in my household! Yours look delish! You can make so many different cuisines so well!

    • LOL… so do the kids speak both Nihongo and Mandarin as well? You should try some more Chinese dishes, after all, we need to keep the favorite men in our lives happy. Have a great weekend. BAM

  • Lisa

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried Zongzi, but who would not love those lovely little bundles of glutinous rice with goodiews mixed in. I KNOW I’d love peanuts in mine..maybe some duck too! That said..those boats are so colorful and gorgeous. I would love to attend the Dragon Boat Festival. Closest I came was the Head of the Charles in Cambridge Mass..but that’s Crew, and the boats are just super, in a race lol

  • Late as usual, I still had to chime in and tell you, BAM, how much I enjoyed this post ~ the photos, the food (I’m thinking chestnuts and cashews would be a good combo for the one Zongi!), and the tradition. You and your commenters talking about boat races reminded me that in nearby Bath, New York, they race down the main downtown street in bathtubs on wheels! Nowhere near as colorful as the Dragon Boat Festival.

    Keep writing…

    • Thank you Kathleen! It is amazing how many cultures have a type of boat race like these. I am sure really the only main difference is the type of street food served.

  • i want this soooo bad right now! I haven’t had a zongzi in forever and totally miss it. I love the ones that are filled with lots of sausage and mushrooms.. mmmm..

    • I must admit I tried my fair share of different types of zongzi but did not have a sausage and mushroom one. I will have to look for that next year during the dragon boat races. Welcome back Sammie! BAM

  • machisan

    This food looks so good that makes me hungry!!

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