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How to make Taiwanese ZhongZi (or ZongZi) 粽子

16 Jun

Today is the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in Chinese calendar, aka The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午节 in Chinese). I hardly look at the lunar calendar but only know when it’s coming when T&T starts selling 粽子 (ZongZi or ZhongZi), lychee is in season or when Grandma starts making zhongi. I asked her to teach me how to make it this year, and she was glad to pass down the tradition to me. It’s actually quite easy, but the preparation process is complex and the wrapping needs to be practiced.

What this is great for, is getting friends and family together to make it and eat together – and that’s what it’s really about.

粽子 / ZhongZi / ZongZi Recipe

(courtesy of and featuring my Grandma)


If you are comfortable with cooking and experimenting, discard all my measurements (as usual), but use it as a reference.

  • 1.3 lbs sticky rice
  • bamboo leaves as needed (and string)
  • 1/6lb peanuts (optional, as much as you like)
  • 0.65oz dried miniature shrimp
  • 0.65oz dried chinese mushrooms
  • 1/2lbs pork (fatty, belly, whatever… chunked)
  • fried shallots as needed
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or brown sugar syrup. DO NOT use Taiwanese black sugar)
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Salted duck egg, chestnuts, dried minced daikon radish.
  • Serve with: sweet chili sauce or sweet soy sauce.


  • Soak overnight: peanuts, dried chinese mushrooms, dried miniature shrimp
  • Wash bamboo leaves thoroughly and till pliable. Remove stems and leave in bowl with some water to keep moist but not soak.
  • Wash rice thoroughly and rinse 3-4 times. Add 3 tsp of salt and mix. Update: soak for at least half an hour if you are planning to use a pressure cooker, 3 hours to overnight if using a steamer
  • Peel cooked salted duck egg. Remove the white and the membrane around the yolk. Toss with a tbsp of rice wine for flavour.

Methods – meat filling:

  1. Heat oil in wok. Add pork chunks and stirfry till fragrant. Remove from heat.
  2. Add more oil to wok if necessary. Stirfry shrimp and fried shallots, then add mushrooms and stirfry till fragrant. Add peanuts and mix.
  3. Add meat, season with soy sauce, rice wine, sugar. Saute rapidly over high heat until boiling (add enough soy and rice wine so that there is some liquid). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. ALWAYS TASTE and add more if necessary of any ingredient.

Methods – wrapping:

  1. Take 2 leaves, one larger than the other and opposite end to opposite end. Overlap, with the smaller leaf on the top, line the edge of the leaves up but with the smaller leaf a little higher. (You’ll need to watch the video to know what I mean).
  2. Fold and form a funnel shape, with the left end longer than the right.
  3. Place rice, filling, and more rice as in the video.
  4. Fold the bottom over, pinch the sides in and push the rice and filling upwards. Make sure it’s tight or else when it’s cooked the rice will turn into mush. Pinch the top and fold. Secure with cotton string.

Methods – cooking – 2 ways:

  1. Boiling in pressure cooker: Put dumplings into pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook until boiling and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. But always test first to see amount of cooking time depending on heat source, pressure cooker etc.
  2. Steaming: Bring water in steamer to a boil, and steam over low heat for 1 hour or until done.

Serve with sweet chili sauce or sweet soy paste.

For all your Taiwanese imports….

19 Sep

So I headed down to this event that my Grandma’s ‘school’ was holding – it was a food fair fundraiser. Found every Taiwanese dish from beef noodle soup, to fermented rice to bubble tea… all the food you grew up with. Came across these tiny tapioca balls – I’ve always avoided making the regular tapioca that you find in the tea shops – the larger 1cm diameter ones because it needs to be watched, carefully cooked and is time consuming. Found these tasty small ones about 1/5 the size – cooking time 5 minutes!

Got introed to this Taiwanese warehouse that supplied the tapioca, along with Taiwanese imports such as rock sugar, tea, fruit syrups (for all your bubble tea needs), 8 treasure beans (and all your ice plate needs), grass jelly, egg milk powder etc.

Shine Enterprise Limited
1624 West 75th Avenue
Vancouver BC V6P 6G2, Canada
tel: 604-737-8403
Fax: 604-737-9849

tw food

Taiwanese Salt Pepper Chicken (鹽酥雞)

16 Jun

chickenAs usual, all measurements are just a guideline, but this came out quite delicious! Just need to figure out now to make it even crispier – if I remember correctly, my 2nd uncle (who’s a fantastic cook) double fried it in a large vat with lots of oil and over a gas stove outdoors.


1 lbs chicken – cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp cooking wine
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 scallion/green onion – segmented
sliced ginger – large pieces

sweet yam flour/starch
corn starch
egg <– I didn’t use this, but will try the next round

five spice powder

paper towels/lettuce leaves

1) Combine all the marinade ingredients and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Don’t cut the ginger and green onion too small or they might stick onto the chicken and will burn when you fry it.
2) Heat oil slowly in wok/pan/pot. I also pan fried a few pieces to see the effect – about the same, but used less oil. For best results use a gas stove, heat on low heat for about 5 minutes, then increase to low/medium. Adjust accordingly.
3) Combine all the dry ingredients for the coating. Should be 50% yam flour, 15% flour, 35% corn starch.
4) When the oil is hot enough, coat the chicken in the egg wash (optional) then dip into dry coat mix. Make sure it’s fully coated, squeeze as much powder as you can get on it (makes it crispier/fluffier) and drop into oil. Try a piece at first to test if the temperature of the oil is right. Fry till brown and remove onto paper towel or lettuce leaf.
5) Top with seasoning (see below) and serve immediately.

1) In pan, panfry dry ingredients on very low heat till fragrant. Pepper 50%, salt 40%, five pice powder 10%.

TaiwanFest 2008!!

25 Aug

Highlights: FOOD!, Wu Bai concert on Saturday August 30th (in Seattle – =(, and FOOD!

August 30-September 1
Plaza of Nations
750 Pacific Blvd.

Friiend – we go on Sunday? or the Monday?

Note to self: Learn Wu Bai’s “Flower Dance”

Proud to be…

9 Aug


Continue reading

Naturactor makeup in Singapore

27 Jun

Hai Tong Co Pte Ltd., Blk.4 Sago Lane #01-125, Singapore 050004.(Singapore Chinatown)

Chinese dictionary

11 Jun

八仙果 “Ba1 xian1 guo3”

11 Jun

or Chen Pi Ba Xian Guo 陈皮八仙果

Makes the nausea go away. Otherwise a tasty snack.



For more preserved stuff (the Taiwanese love the preserves aka 蜜饯, mi4 jian4 – goes especially well with the tea) go to:

Blog about Taiwan (and some China)

5 Jun

An Australian academic working on Taiwan and China at a university in London. This blog is a space for articles, commentaries, reviews, conference papers, and other miscellany and ephemera which would not otherwise find a permanent place in books or journals.

China: In Tragedy, a New Kind of Unity

20 May

In Tragedy, a New Kind of Unity

By Matthew Forney
Sunday, May 18, 2008; B03


On my street last week, the Communist Party’s neighborhood committee moved old computers out of its storage room to make way for donated materials bound for earthquake victims 2,000 miles away. Within 12 hours, the space was crammed with clothes and blankets.

All across China, images of mass destruction and individual courage have inspired ordinary citizens to donate money, material and sweat to earthquake victims in the remote foothills of the Himalayas. This national sense of purpose might look similar to the response of average Americans after Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, but what’s happening in China is new and significant.

This marks the first time in recent history that ordinary Chinese have participated in a national movement that was not a protest against something — usually a foreign power. Until now, China has defined itself in terms of “Us vs. Them.” Today, it’s “Us Without Them.” The change could have a profound and positive impact on this summer’s Olympics in Beijing — and on China’s self-confidence for years to come.

Until the quake on May 12, the dominant mood in China was one of frustration. Citizens had seen this summer’s Olympics in Beijing as an affirmation of China’s progress. But everywhere they looked, the world blamed their country for something: its support for the regime in Sudan; its suppression of anti-government protests in Tibet; its dispatch of People’s Armed Police cadets to protect the Olympic torch overseas. China was even faulted for Burma’s unwillingness to accept foreign aid after a typhoon struck it two weeks ago. Few Chinese have problems with these policies, and most felt that the world had violated a compact: The Olympics were supposed to elicit praise, not condemnation.

Those feelings of betrayal are summed up in a hugely popular poem that popped up on the Internet in March, called “Chinese Grievances.” The verses come across as an eloquent but passive-aggressive rant: “When we closed our doors, you launched the Opium War to open our markets./When we embraced free trade, you blamed us for stealing your jobs.” (See complete poem at right.)

China’s sensitivity to the attitudes of foreigners is nothing new. For the past decade, mass expressions of national cohesion have always derived from a shared sense of victimhood at the hands of other countries. Young Chinese united to protest against the United States for bombing China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999 (accidentally, says Washington) and after a collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet in 2001; against Japan several times, most recently in 2005 in remembrance of atrocities committed in China a half-century ago; and against France because of pro-Tibet demonstrations that disrupted the journey of the Olympic torch.

The Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989 was a rare exception, as much of China united against the government instead of a foreign power. But the focal point of the nation’s cohesion was still opposition, and afterward, the government accused “foreign elements” of hoodwinking Chinese students into a plot to divide and weaken the country.

Go back further in time, and the pattern holds. All Chinese schoolchildren learn that modern China was born during a nationwide student movement that began in May 1919 to protest the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and turned Germany’s colonial holdings in China over to Japan instead of restoring them to Beijing’s control. In the century before that, European powers started various wars against China to control parts of the country, including Hong Kong, which the Qing emperor ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” in 1842.

No one questions China’s suffering at the hands of colonial powers. Yet China won’t emerge as a confident, modern nation until it knocks the historical chip off its shoulder, and that won’t happen until it generates a sense of national unity from within. The earthquake in Sichuan was nothing if not tragic, but its long-term effects may prove beneficial, even cathartic, as they help China shape its modern identity without resorting to foreign scapegoats.

For one thing, many Chinese draw genuine pride from their government’s response, at least so far. The quake hit one of China’s most remote and inaccessible regions. Local officials stayed on the job, put preexisting emergency plans into operation and coordinated their activities far better than might have been expected in a developing country — or many developed ones. At the scene, the encouragement that Premier Wen Jiabao shouted through a bullhorn and whispered to survivors, at one point telling terrified orphans that the government would care for them, struck a Bill Clinton-like note.

For another, China’s media have used their expanding freedoms to deliver stories of heartbreak and relief without turning the rescue effort into a flag-waving propaganda exercise — at least not yet. One hopes that this new spirit of openness will enable China’s journalists to investigate possibly shoddy construction and whether the troops dispatched to the region were properly equipped. Nonetheless, what I saw on Chinese TV last week was far superior to the coverage of flood relief on the Yangtze River 10 years ago, which was cynically marshaled to burnish the reputation of the People’s Liberation Army.

These encouraging aspects of Chinese unity have become visible to a world that is most familiar with less admirable characteristics, such as the nation’s inability to understand why Tibetans might have their own poetic list of grievances. Given the devastation afflicting Sichuan, it’s healthy for the Chinese to turn inward right now. Suddenly, not even the Olympics look very important. Even the government has recognized this by scaling back the torch relay, which had been so maligned overseas and so triumphal at home. China shouldn’t need to prove anything to the world anymore. By seeing its people through the Sichuan tragedy, it has proven enough to itself.

Matthew Forney, a former Beijing bureau chief for Time, is writing a book about raising his family in China.