All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Chuka chimaki / zongzi / Chinese rice dumplings in bamboo leaves (simplified version)

Tango no sekku, one of five traditional seasonal festivals, falls in May in Japan. It is now called Kodomo no Hi or Children's Day, and is celebrated as a national holiday on May 5.
Duanwu-jie, the seasonal festival in Chinese culture, follows the lunar calendar and occurs in June. While zongzi rice dumplings are available year-round, they seem to be everywhere as the festival approaches. The fridge in an apartment I shared with two roommates in Taiwan was literally packed with rice dumplings we received from students and friends as the date neared. Already fully loaded, we continued to be asked, “Have you had zongzi?” The question, of course, was a prelude to giving us more zongzi. People’s generosity was amazing, and since none of us spoke Chinese well enough to politely turn down their offers, more zongji came back to the apartment.

Usually, rice and goodies are separately prepared and assembled when wrapping with bamboo leaves. This is a simplified version where rice and goodies are cooked in the same pan.


(10-15 dumplings)

600 cc mochigome sweet rice
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (for flavoring sweet rice)
2 tbsp oil (for sauteing sweet rice; not in photo)

2 tbsp shami Chinese dried shrimp
3-4 hoshi-shiitake dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 carrot (40 g in photo; optional)
1/2 takenoko no mizuni boiled bamboo shoot (100 g; not in photo; optional)
200 g white-flesh fish (ohyo halibut in photo) or pork
2 tbsp oil (for sauteing goodies; not in photo)

Seasonings for fish/pork
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 small knob ginger

Seasonings for goodies
100 cc shami dried shrimp rehydrating liquid
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sake
1/2 tsp salt

Materials for wrappers (not in photo)
20-30 medium bamboo leaves (if using large leaves, the same number as dumplings)
10-15 40 cm twine


Rinse sweet rice, and soak at least 1 hour.


Soak bamboo leaves in warm water.


Rehydrate dried shiitake and shami by placing them in a separate tall containers with enough water to cover, and microwave for 1-2 minutes.


Grate ginger.
Cut fish into 3 cm cubes.
Pour soy sauce and sake, and squeeze ginger juice.
Mix, and marinate for 30+ minutes.


Mix all seasonings for goodies, except for shami rehydrating liquid.


When rehydrated dried shiitake is cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid, cut off and slice stems, and cut umbrellas into 1cm squares. Slice carrot and bamboo shoot into matching size. Devein shami, and roughly chop.
Save and measure shami rehydrating liquid (if not enough, add water or dried shiitake rehydrating liquid, and measure 100cc).
Drain sweet rice.


In a large frying pan or shallow pan, heat oil, and saute shami, dried shiitake, carrot and bamboo shoot on medium high heat for 1 minute.
Add fish, and saute for another minute or until surface turns opaque. 

Add shami rehydrating liquid and seasoning mixture for goodies, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Before liquid disappears, transfer goodies and liquid to a bowl.


In the same pan, add oil, and heat. 
Add sweet rice, and cook on medium heat.
Quickly stir, and let rice absorb oil. 
When rice turns somewhat translucent, add soy sauce, and mix well.

Return goodies and liquid to pan, and mix well.
Turn off heat.


Now wrap rice and goodies with bamboo leaves.
(See notes for links to videos on wrapping dumplings)

Cut off tough stem ends of bamboo leaves.

Take two leaves, and overlap them halfway, with stem ends pointing out. 
Bring two ends together and make a cone, with the tip one-quarter of the way from the far end.

First pack with rice and ingredients other than fish to the halfway point. Place 1 or 2 pieces of fish, then cover with rice and other goodies, and pack.

Hold cone in one hand; with your other hand, fold bamboo leaf flap, and cover rice surface.

If cone is rounded, form it into a triangular pyramid shape at this point. 
Fold extra bamboo leaves around the cone/pyramid, and tie with twine.

When two leaves are used per dumpling, going around twice with twine usually works better.

When extra leaves stick out here and there, they can be cut off or twine can go around at different positions, as shown in photo at left.  


Steam (covered) for 30 minutes on medium high heat.
Ready to eat!

  • Vegetables (carrot and bamboo shoot above) are optional.
  • Dried shiitake and shami (separately) can be soaked ahead of time. You can soak sweet rice a day in advance, too.
  • If pork is used instead of fish, saute it first, then add other goodies.
  • Kuri chestnuts (fresh) are a great addition when making this in fall.
  • Rice and goodies are easier to pack when warm. When cold, they tend to spill from bamboo wrappers.
  • The number of dumplings you can make with the above amount depends on the size of bamboo leaves. When one greenish leaf (as above) is used per dumpling, for example, I can make about 20 smallish dumplings. Brownish, thicker bamboo leaves are usually larger (wider) than greenish ones.
  • Dumplings keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and in the freezer for 1 month. To reheat, steam for 20-30 minutes (recommended) or microwave for a few minutes (microwaving too long would make them rock solid).
  • If a steamer is not available, boil dumplings with a drop cover to hold them down in water on medium high to medium heat (bubbling temperature) for 40 minutes.
  • Brush sesame oil on bamboo leaf surfaces that contact rice and goodies for extra aroma and taste.
  • How-to-wrap video links (in Chinese: Don't worry about the language, visuals show what you need to know.): 
               a (very standard way to wrap rice dumplings with moistened bamboo leaves)
               b (more close-up images; with dry bamboo leaves

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