June 13th marks the Dragon Boat Festival, a Chinese holiday celebrated by Chinese people around the world. Also known as the Double Fifth, because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Calendar, the Chinese celebrate by making and eating jongs (zongzi) and watching dragon boat races.
While origins vary, the most popular origin of the holiday is in memory of ancient poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month. The many locals who loved him paddled their boats to the middle of the river, tossing dumplings made of sticky rice and bamboo leaves into the water to feed the fish so that the fish would not eat his body. This is also said to be the origin of the dragon boat races.
As a child, I did not know the origin of the festival, but I do have great memories of making jongs with my grandma and my mom. It was a great opportunity to get together with family, share stories about Chinese culture and make some delicious treats!
So, to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, here is the recipe for jongs that has been enjoyed by my family for years.
5 lb glutinous rice
2 lb shelled mung beans (the yellow kind)
2 lb sliced pork belly
1 package of bamboo leaves
10-12 salted duck egg yolks
5 chinese sausages (lop cheurng) sliced
10-12 dried Chinese mushrooms (optional)
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1tsp chicken broth powder
1 tsp soya sauce
Stock pot with cover
The night before:
Slice the pork belly into 1.5 inch long slices and place into a bowl, add oyster sauce, garlic powder, chicken broth powder and soya sauce and mix with the pork. Cover and refrigerate.
Put the rice into a large bowl, rinse and cover with water.
Put the mung beans into a bowl, rinse and cover with water.
Take the bamboo leaves and soak in boiling water for an hour (make sure leaves are covered by the water, put a bowl or mug on top so that the leaves do not float) After an hour, drain the water and add fresh water, let sit overnight.
The next day:
Soak the Chinese mushrooms in hot water and cover for 30 mins. When softened, drain, snip the stems and cut into quarters.
Slice the Chinese sausages into thin diagonal slices and place into a dish.
Drain the rice, mung beans and bamboo leaves and place back into their respective bowls. Pat dry the leaves.
Place the duck egg yolks into a bowl.
Take the pork out of the refrigerator.
Wrapping the jongs:
Take a bamboo leaf, smooth side in and fold in half, folding the bottom of the loaf up to make a cone-like pocket. Take a 2nd leaf and place around the first leaf, the bottom half of the new leaf overlapping the top half of the first leaf, making the cone larger.
Take a spoonful of rice, add a piece of pork, add mung beans, add about ½ of a salted duck egg yolk, some more mung beans and Chinese sausage and top off with more rice. Press down to pack down the ingredients, but not too hard as it will rip the leaves.
Take a 3rd leaf and place around the 2nd, fold in the top edges, bottom and sides first, then bend the loose leaves on top downward over the folded leaf. Hold the jong firmly to keep the rice from falling out (but once again not too tight) and wrap cotton twine around the jong to keep the leaves in place. You can overlap the cotton twine as much as you like, as long as it keeps everything together. Tie the ends of the twine together to make a little package.
Boiling the jongs:
Fill the stockpot about ½ to 2/3 with water and bring to a boil. Add the jongs carefully into the water and cover. Check every 30 mins or so to make sure the jongs are submerged in the water and that there is enough water in the pot. About half way, stir the jongs so the bottom ones closest to the element move to the top and the ones on the top go towards the bottom. Cook for 2-2.5 hours.
Remove from water and enjoy!
Makes 24-40 jongs depending on size of jongs.