Bamboo Sticky Rice (Zongzi, Joong 咸肉棕)

Learn how to make these delicious pockets of goodness - a traditional family recipe!

Prep Time
600 min
Total Time
1200 min
Yields
20 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

I am very excited to share my parents' recipe for bamboo sticky rice!

I really had no idea how much effort and love goes into making these until I spent a weekend filming and learning how my parents make it.

I am very, very grateful that I get to eat these every year, and excited to do this with our kids when they get older.

Also known as "zongzi" in Mandarin or "joong" in Cantonese, there are a ton of variations across Asia, but at its core, it’s a pocket of sticky rice with delicious fillings, wrapped together in beautiful bamboo leaves.

The style of joong we’ll be learning today comes from Toisan, where my parents grew up. In their villages, my grandparents used to make this for my parents, and my parents still make this for us pretty much every year for the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese calendar. 

A morbid but endearing origin story

Legend has it that these sticky rice dumplings were made as an offering to honor the death of Qu Yuan, a beloved Chinese patriot and poet, and a loyal advisor to the king.

One day, Qu Yuan was so upset with how his king ignored his advice in handling an impending invasion that he drowned himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC.

Accounts vary on how these dumplings came to be associated with Qu Yuan, but essentially, he was so endearing and loved by his people that they started making zongzi and throwing them into the river in his honor, every year.

From Smithsonian Mag:

For years after Qu Yuan’s death, his supporters threw rice in the water to feed his spirit, but the food, it was said, was always intercepted by a water dragon. (Master Chef Martin Yan, author and host of the pioneering Yan Can Cook TV show, suggests there may have been truth to this: “Some fresh water fish—like catfish—grow so huge that the Chinese considered them dragons.”)

After a couple of centuries of this frustration, Qu Yuan came back to tell the people to wrap the rice in leaves, or stuff it into a bamboo stalk, so the dragon couldn’t eat it. It was only generations later that people began to retroactively credit Qu Yuan’s erstwhile lifesavers with starting the rice-ball-tossing tradition.

And there you have it - the semi-sad but heartwarming story of sticky rice dumplings!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
20
    Main Ingredients
  • 2 lb glutinous / sticky rice
  • 1 lb pork belly
  • 80 bamboo leaves (

    3 per dumpling, +1 for backup

    )
  • 1 lb peeled, split mung beans
  • 12 oz peanuts
  • 2 oz large dried shrimp
  • 2 pieces Chinese sausage
  • 10 pieces salted egg yolk
  • 15 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms
  • roll of cotton string
  • Pork Belly Marinade
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.50 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • Rice Flavoring
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Mung Bean Flavoring
  • 1 tsp salt

Make a bunch!

My dad said his mom used to stay up all night, making over a hundred joong dumplings at a time.

This process can take some time, so it's worth it to scale up the recipe and make a lot all at once.

Also, these store really well in a freezer, so you can enjoy them months down the road!

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

Other Supplies + Tools

You'll need cotton cooking twine to tie the zongzi together.

You'll need a good wok, which provides a ton of versatility for the classic Chinese cooking methods: steaming, stir frying, deep frying, and etc.

You will need a big salad bowl or basin for washing, lots of bowls for soaking ingredients, and a colander for draining.

You might want a food scale. It's not absolutely necessary for this recipe, but helpful if you want to get your proportions right.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Since this is a recipe that takes a day or two to prepare, I wanted to give you an overview of all of the major steps.

Let’s say we want to have these ready by dinner on Sunday.

Here's how you might split up the tasks, considering that we need to let a lot of ingredients soak in water or marinate:

  • Saturday morning:
    • Prepare the pork belly and let it marinate overnight.
    • Soak, boil, and wash the bamboo leaves, then let the leaves sit in water overnight as well. 
  • Sunday morning:
    • Wash, soak, cut, and flavor the rest of our ingredients. 
  • Sunday afternoon:
    • Assemble and wrap our joong with our bamboo leaves. 
    • Boil for 3 hours.

If you’re pressed for time or if you have a lot of hands on deck, it’s possible to do all of this in a single day, by combining the marinating and soaking that occurs on Saturday and Sunday morning. 

Making joong is a long labor of love, and it’s a really fun activity to do with family or a big group of friends!

Cut the pork belly (1 lb) into roughly 1 inch pieces.

Using a bowl, add salt (1 tsp), five spice powder, light soy sauce (1 tbsp), chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tsp).

Mix together the flavors, and place the meat into the bowl.

Then, mix everything with a spoon for 60-90 seconds.

At a minimum, let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Ideally, let it marinate overnight.

When preparing our dried bamboo leaves (80), our main goals are to:

  • Slowly rehydrate our leaves so that they become pliable enough to fold without cracking.
  • Clean the leaves.

Here's how we do it:

  • Soften the leaves by soaking them in cold water in a big basin for 30-60 minutes.
    • You can make sure they're all submerged by filling a small bowl with water, and resting it on top of the pile of leaves. This way, the bowl will press down on the leaves as it sinks.
  • Using a wok or big pot, boil them for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Make sure the leaves are fully submerged in cold water.
      • For other recipes, you might notice that my dad pre-boils water. We don't want that here, as a drastic shift in temperature leads to more cracking.
    • Cover with a lid.
    • Start out at high heat. When the wok / pot comes to a boil, set it to medium heat.
  • Wash each side of each leaf with a clean sponge.

If you’re planning on marinating the pork belly over night and finishing cooking the next day, then place the leaves in a bucket or big bowl of water so they stay moist overnight. 

A few hours before we’re ready to start wrapping and cooking, we’ll wash, soak, chop, and flavor our remaining ingredients.

Wash and soak

We’ll need to wash the rice, mung beans (1 lb), peanuts (12 oz), dried shrimp (2 oz), and dried mushrooms (15 pieces) by filling the bowl with water, massaging and mixing it, and draining the water. Repeat this cycle 3 times per ingredient.

Then, we’ll soak each ingredient in water for 30 minutes.

Make sure not to soak the ingredients for too long - especially for the rice and mung beans, since they will get bigger and softer the longer we soak them.

After 30 minutes is up, thoroughly drain each of the ingredients with a colander, and set them aside.

Chop ingredients

We’ll cut our Chinese sausages (2 pieces) diagonally into half inch slices, our dried shrimp in half, our dried mushrooms into thirds, and our salted egg yolks (10 pieces) in half.

  • If some of the mushrooms aren’t yet fully rehydrated, just continue soaking them after you’ve chopped them.
  • For the dried shrimp, my dad got a larger size because they’re tastier. If you happened to get a smaller size shrimp, you can just leave them as is. 

Flavor the rice + mung beans

To the rice, we'll add salt (1.5 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), and olive oil (1 tbsp). Stir it well, mixing everything together for 60-90 seconds.

To the mung beans, we'll just add salt, and mix together for 60-90 seconds.

Preface: this part is the hardest to describe in written words, so I highly recommend watching our video for this important section.

Create the bamboo pocket

  • Arrange 2 leaves
    • Pair a big leaf with a small leaf
    • Lay them in opposite directions (one end is pointy, one end is round)
    • Lay them shiny side up (one side is rough, one side is shiny/smooth)
    • Stagger the leaves about 1 inch apart
  • Fold them in half, shiny side up
  • Make another fold about 1 inch along the bottom edge of the fold you just made.
    • This forms the corner of your pocket

Notes

  • If there are cracks along the center of a particular leaf, you can either throw it away (that's why we boiled so many extra), or you can cover it up with a second leaf.

Fill the pocket

In this order, we'll take a table spoon and fill our bamboo pocket with:

  • 2 tablespoons of rice
  • 1 tablespoon of mung bean
  • Goodies
    • 1 piece of pork belly
    • 1 piece of Chinese sausage
    • 1 piece of sliced egg yolk
    • 2 pieces of dried shrimp
    • 2 pieces of dried mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon of mung bean
  • 2 tablespoons of rice

Each time we add the rice and mung beans, we'll aim to spread it evenly across the pocket.

Later, when we boil this for 3 hours, everything melts into a chewy goodness.

The rice becomes stickier, the mung beans and pork belly fat melt away, and everything is right in the world. It's amazing.

Enclose the dumpling

Take a third leaf and wrap it around the pocket, positioned high enough so that there's enough clearance to fully enclose the dumpling.

Fold both sides inwards towards the filling. Then, fold the extra leaves down towards the bottom of the dumpling.

Tie it together

Using our cotton cooking twine, we'll start by holding the string down with our finger on the leaf, with about 6 inches of string dangling (we'll use this in the middle to create a knot.)

Make several loops around the dumpling width-wise, and then make a double cross with the 6-inch string that was dangling. We'll use this cross to transition to creating a loop length-wise. Then, we'll double-knot our string.

Cut the excess string, and cut any excess leaf that you don't want.

It doesn't have to be perfect!

As my mom says in the video, as long as it keeps all the goodies inside, you've done a great job. The more you practice, the better you'll get at this.

Finally, we'll load up a big pot with our joong, and fill it with cold water.

Make sure all of the dumplings are fully submerged, and cover the pot.

Set the stove to high heat. Once it's boiling, lower it to medium heat, and let it cook for 3 hours.

While this is cooking, the water level will probably drop over time due to evaporation. Set a timer for every 30 minutes to check that the joong are fully submerged, adding boiled water if necessary. It’ll help to have a kettle of boiled water on hand that you can keep reheating. 

Once we've reached 3 hours, we're done! Time to eat :)

Summary

Bamboo Sticky Rice (Zongzi, Joong 咸肉棕)
Learn how to make these delicious pockets of goodness - a traditional family recipe!
  • Prep Time: 600 min
  • Total Time: 1200 min
  • Yield: 20 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 2 lb glutinous / sticky rice
  • 1 lb pork belly
  • 80 bamboo leaves (

    3 per dumpling, +1 for backup

    )
  • 1 lb peeled, split mung beans
  • 12 oz peanuts
  • 2 oz large dried shrimp
  • 2 pieces Chinese sausage
  • 10 pieces salted egg yolk
  • 15 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms
  • roll of cotton string
  • Pork Belly Marinade
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.50 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • Rice Flavoring
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Mung Bean Flavoring
  • 1 tsp salt
Step 1 - Overview↑ Jump to details

Example schedule for a Sunday dinner:

  • Saturday morning:
    • Prepare the pork belly and let it marinate overnight.
    • Soak, boil, and wash the bamboo leaves, then let the leaves sit in water overnight as well. 
  • Sunday morning:
    • Wash, soak, cut, and flavor the rest of our ingredients. 
  • Sunday afternoon:
    • Assemble and wrap our joong with our bamboo leaves. 
    • Boil for 3 hours.

If you’re pressed for time or if you have a lot of hands on deck, it’s possible to do all of this in a single day, by combining the marinating and soaking that occurs on Saturday and Sunday morning. 

Step 2 - Prepare pork belly↑ Jump to details

Cut the pork belly (1 lb) into roughly 1 inch pieces.

Using a bowl, add salt (1 tsp), five spice powder, light soy sauce (1 tbsp), chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and Shaoxing cooking wine (1 tsp).

Mix together the flavors, and place the meat into the bowl.

Then, mix everything with a spoon for 60-90 seconds.

At a minimum, let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Ideally, let it marinate overnight.

Step 3 - Prepare bamboo leaves↑ Jump to details

When preparing our dried bamboo leaves (80), our main goals are to:

  • Slowly rehydrate our leaves so that they become pliable enough to fold without cracking.
  • Clean the leaves

Here's how we do it:

  • Soften the leaves by soaking them in cold water in a big basin for 30-60 minutes.
    • You can make sure they're all submerged by filling a small bowl with water, and resting it on top of the pile of leaves. This way, the bowl will press down on the leaves as it sinks.
  • Using a wok or big pot, boil them for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Make sure the leaves are fully submerged in cold water.
      • For other recipes, you might notice that my dad pre-boils water. We don't want that here, as a drastic shift in temperature leads to more cracking.
    • Cover with a lid.
    • Start out at high heat. When the wok / pot comes to a boil, set it to medium heat.
  • Wash each side of each leaf with a clean sponge.

If you’re planning on marinating the pork belly over night and finishing cooking the next day, then place the leaves in a bucket or big bowl of water so they stay moist overnight. 

Step 4 - Prepare the filling↑ Jump to details

A few hours before we’re ready to start wrapping and cooking, we’ll wash, soak, chop, and flavor our remaining ingredients.

  • Wash and soak
    • Wash the rice, mung beans (1 lb), peanuts (12 oz), dried shrimp (2 oz), and dried mushrooms (15 pieces) by filling the bowl with water, massaging and mixing it, and draining the water.
      • Repeat this cycle 3 times per ingredient.
    • Soak each ingredient in water for 30 minutes.
    • After 30 minutes is up, thoroughly drain each of the ingredients with a colander, and set them aside.
    • Notes
      • Make sure not to soak the ingredients for too long - especially for the rice and mung beans, since they will get bigger and softer the longer we soak them.
  • Chop ingredients
    • We’ll cut our Chinese sausages (2 pieces) diagonally into half inch slices, our dried shrimp in half, our dried mushrooms into thirds, and our salted egg yolks (10 pieces) in half.
    • Notes
      • If some of the mushrooms aren’t yet fully rehydrated, just continue soaking them after you’ve chopped them.
      • For the dried shrimp, my dad got a larger size because they’re tastier. If you happened to get a smaller size shrimp, you can just leave them as is. 
  • Flavor the rice + mung beans
    • To the rice, we'll add salt (1.5 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), and olive oil (1 tbsp). Stir it well, mixing everything together for 60-90 seconds.
    • To the mung beans, we'll just add salt, and mix together for 60-90 seconds.
Step 5 - Assemble the dumplings↑ Jump to details

Preface: this part is the hardest to describe in written words, so I highly recommend watching our video for this important section.

Create the bamboo pocket:

  • Arrange 2 leaves
    • Pair a big leaf with a small leaf
    • Lay them in opposite directions (one end is pointy, one end is round)
    • Lay them shiny side up (one side is rough, one side is shiny/smooth)
    • Stagger the leaves about 1 inch apart
  • Fold them in half, shiny side up
  • Make another fold about 1 inch along the bottom edge of the fold you just made.
    • This forms the corner of your pocket

If there are cracks along the center of a particular leaf, you can either throw it away (that's why we boiled so many extra), or you can cover it up with a second leaf.

Fill the pocket

In this order, we'll take a tablespoon and fill our bamboo pocket with:

  • 2 tablespoons of rice
  • 1 tablespoon of mung bean
  • Goodies
    • 1 piece of pork belly
    • 1 piece of Chinese sausage
    • 1 piece of sliced egg yolk
    • 2 pieces of dried shrimp
    • 2 pieces of dried mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon of mung bean
  • 2 tablespoons of rice

Each time we add the rice and mung beans, we'll aim to spread it evenly across the pocket.

Enclose the dumpling

Take a third leaf and wrap it around the pocket, positioned high enough so that there's enough clearance to fully enclose the dumpling.

Fold both sides inwards towards the filling. Then, fold the extra leaves down towards the bottom of the dumpling.

Tie it together

Using our cotton cooking twine, we'll start by holding the string down with our finger on the leaf, with about 6 inches of string dangling (we'll use this in the middle to create a knot.)

Make several loops around the dumpling width-wise, and then make a double cross with the 6-inch string that was dangling. We'll use this cross to transition to creating a loop length-wise. Then, we'll double-knot our string.

Cut the excess string, and cut any excess leaf that you don't want.

Step 6 - Boil for 3 hours↑ Jump to details

Finally, we'll load up a big pot with our joong, and fill it with cold water.

Make sure all of the dumplings are fully submerged, and cover the pot.

Set the stove to high heat. Once it's boiling, lower it to medium heat, and let it cook for 3 hours.

While this is cooking, the water level will probably drop over time due to evaporation. Set a timer for every 30 minutes to check that the joong are fully submerged, adding boiled water if necessary. It’ll help to have a kettle of boiled water on hand that you can keep reheating. 

Once we've reached 3 hours, we're done! Time to eat :)

Step 7 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 8 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

I have so many memories eating this dish growing up.

Honestly, I used to take these dumplings for granted, but now I definitely realize how much effort and love goes into making them.

Both of my parents grew up making these with my grandparents, who learned it from their parents, and so on.

As our son and our future kids get older, I look forward to continuing the tradition with my family and passing it down through the generations.

And with that, on behalf of the Laus, we really appreciate all of your love and support. We hope this recipe brings your family and loved ones much love and joy in all the years to come.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son. We get into a lot of detail about how my grandparents used to make this for my parents back in China, and some of the subtleties of making joong.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

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About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!