Dragon Boat Festival Sticky Rice Dumplings

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Known in my Taiwanese family as “bah-tsang” holiday, for the steamed bamboo-leaf wrapped sticky rice parcels which are eaten on this day. In Taiwan, the rice is combined with morsels of soy-sauce braised pork and hard-boiled eggs (or salted duck eggs), boiled peanuts, shiitake mushrooms and shallots. (For an excellent tutorial see my friend’s video tutorial at Hapamama.com https://hapamama.com/how-to-fold-bah-tsang-zongzi-with-a-video-tutorial/)

This is a photo of my 88 year old mother-in-law, whom we call Mommy, in her Flushing, NY apartment making her Toishanese version, called gau-tung, which has a similar filling but with the addition of lap cheong (Cantonese sausage). She’s one of the strongest people I know— she was sick in the ER over the weekend but she’s rallied enough to fulfill her need to make these in time for the holiday! We’re sad that we can’t be there to celebrate and eat these with her.

When I moved to San Francisco, I laughed the first time I saw these selling in my local Chinese market, labeled not as bah-tsang, gau-tung or the Mandarin name, zongzi— but as “Chinese tamales.”

The festival celebrates a legend of a poet who, distraught over unrequited love, throws himself into a river. To save him from the river’s carnivorous fish, the search party threw in rice dumplings to stave them off.

(I have never made these! Let me know if you do! If I were to make a plantbased version, I would leave out the meat and eggs, and add some five-spice braised tofu and chunks of roasted sweet potato, skin-on.)

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