There is a well-known saying that is widely used amongst the Chinese: “Do not store your winter clothes until it is time for May dumplings”. Not only does this phrase remind us of the unpredictable weather before summer, it also illustrates the important custom of dumpling eating during the Dragon Boat Festival (端午節) which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. This year it will fall on 20th June.
The May dumpling being referenced in this saying is known as Zongzi (糭子/粽子), a traditional Chinese food
that is made from sticky rice stuffed with filling and wrapped most commonly in bamboo leaves. Although normally wrapped in the shape of a pyramid, Zongzi can be found in different shapes with a wide variety of fillings to be chosen from. For those who prefer the savoury, common ingredients include fresh pork, salted duck egg yolk, shrimp, mushroom and green bean paste. Alternatively, the sweetened bean paste or simply dipping the plain dumpling into granulated sugar will satisfy those with a sweet tooth.
There are three main festivals that are celebrated by people of Chinese descent each year. The first is New Year, a time for reflection and the marking of the beginning of a new year; the second is the Mid-Autumn Festival, a time for families to unite and banquet together whilst enjoying the beauty of the full moon; and last but not least, the Dragon Boat Festival, a time where the Chinese pay their tribute to a patriotic poet Qu Yuan (屈原).
As time passed, eating Zongzi and racing dragon boats on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar calendar has become a tradition in the Chinese community. Whether people savour the delectable taste of Zongzi in their own homes or enjoy the excitement of dragon boat race in beaches and rivers worldwide, the respect and tribute to the highly esteemed Qu Yuan still prevails deeply in the hearts of the Chinese.
The Dragon Boat Festival has a substantial influence in countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam, and is now celebrated all over the world where Chinese people reside. In Australia, you can get a taste of these palatable Zongzi at the Tang Food Emporium, 185 Russell Street, Melbourne. Tang offers four types of Zongzi for you to try, namely: minced pork, red bean paste, red date and the plain rice one (that you can dip in sugar to appease your sweet tooth).