SWEET OR SALTY

A guide to Zongzi, a tra­di­tional Dragon Boat Festival snack

Global Times - Weekend - - DINING -

Be­lieve or not, Zongzi, the palm­sized snack made of gluti­nous rice wrapped in reed leaves, is one of the few tra­di­tional Chi­nese dishes that have the power to “di­vide” the coun­try.

A tra­di­tional snack made to cel­e­brate the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls upon the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chi­nese cal­en­dar, Zongzi used to be a sac­ri­fi­cial of­fer­ing to wor­ship the an­ces­tors in the an­cient time. Ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese folk­lore, af­ter the beloved poet Qu Yuan (343BC-278BC), an official with the King­dom of Chu, com­mit­ted sui­cide by jump­ing into a river, lo­cal vil­lagers threw Zongzi into the wa­ter to pre­vent crea­tures from nib­bling away at Qu’s body.

Stuffed with sweet or salty fill­ings, the pyra­mid-shaped snack boasts two firm and di­vided camps of fans across the na­tion – the Sweet Party and the Salty Party.

Tak­ing sides

“Are you a mem­ber of the Sweet Party or the Salty Party?” al­ways be- comes one of the most dis­cussed topics on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia when­ever the festival ap­proaches. Some­times di­vi­sions can be­come so se­vere as to cause fights be­tween friends and even break up lovers.

A sim­i­lar di­vi­sion ex­ists when it comes to other tra­di­tional Chi­nese snacks such as Tangyuan (stuffed gluti­nous rice balls), moon­cakes (a clas­sic pas­try for the Mid-Au­tumn Festival) and Dou­fu­nao (tofu jelly).

When it comes to Zongzi, it is widely be­lieved that south­ern­ers are mostly Salty Party mem­bers, while a ma­jor­ity of north­ern­ers be­long to the Sweet Party. Why and how such pref­er­ences de­vel­oped re­mains a mys­tery.

While clas­sic sweet-fla­vored Zongzi are of­ten stuffed with bean paste or red dates, salty ones have fill­ings such as pork, salty duck egg yolks and ham.

“North­ern­ers put honey dates into Zongzi and they think those who like salty meat Zongzi are freaks… Gosh! It’s those who eat honey date Zongzi that are dis­gust­ing, okay?” wrote ne­ti­zen Black-eyed Xinyue on Sina Weibo.

“Zongzi with meat is dis­gust­ing! Can’t even imag­ine it!” re­torted another ne­ti­zen Wo­jia Wofei.

While the debate rages on to­day, an­cient records ac­tu­ally show that Zongzi were made of pure gluti­nous rice with no fill­ings at all when they first ap­peared some 2,000 years ago, and the shape var­ied from square to cylin­dri­cal.

Nowa­days, all types of strange-fla­vored Zongzi can be seen on shelves in Chi­nese stores.

Not tak­ing sides with the Sweet Party nor the Salty Party, La­tiao Zongzi is one of the hottest trends this year. Stuffed with la­tiao, a highly pop­u­lar spicy snack made from wheat flour, this type of Zongzi is said to fea­ture a su­per spicy, pleas­ant and di­verse fla­vor, ac­cord­ing to ne­ti­zens who have tried out the new prod­uct.

Some of the lat­est jaw-drop­ping Zongzi fill­ings also in­clude durian, cray­fish meat or even swal­low’s nest – ed­i­ble bird’s nests made from the so­lid­i­fied saliva of swal­lows.

Photo: VCG

The tra­di­tional Chi­nese snack Zongzi

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