Sunday, June 24, 2012

Zongi (Chinese Tamales) (粽子)

Grandma and I wrapped these Zongi on June 24, 2012 in celebration of the Duanwu Festival.

  • A bag of bamboo leaves
  • 5lb bag of premium sweet rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Salt
  • 5lbs Pork shoulder
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Rice Cooking Wine
  • Sugar
  • Water chestnuts
  • String (non-dyed) and scissors
  • Optional: mushrooms
1) Rinse both sides of each bamboo leaf to get any dust or dirt off.  Soak the leaves in water to soften them.

2) Mix 5lb of premium sweet rice with soy sauce and salt.

3) Chop up some ginger and garlic

3) Cut up the pork shoulder into chunks and add them to the garlic and ginger.

4) Add soy sauce, sugar, and rice cooking wine to the pork and let it marinade for 20 minutes.

5) Now you're ready to wrap the zongzi.  

The first step is to align the leaves just right.  This is an art in itself.

Take a bamboo leaf and run your fingers along both sides to figure out which side has a raised spine and which is smooth.  Also note which end is pointy and which end is more rounded.

Take a second bamboo leaf and align it with the first one so that their raised spines are touching; the smooth sides of each should be on the outside.  Also, the pointy end of one leaf should be lined up with the rounder end of the other leaf.  

Finally, slide the leaves ever so slightly away from each other so their ends are not perfectly lined up, but one end sticks out a bit.

Now fold the leaves into a cone, like you're making a snow cone holder.  Make sure the point at the bottom of the cone is folded over so no rice falls through.  Also, make the fold offset from the halfway point of the length of the leaves so that one set of ends is shorter than the other.  The longer ends should be on the outside and the shorter ends should be on the inside.  

Here's what it looks like at this point:

And here's my grandma folding hers:

6) Add a few tablespoons of rice into your snow cone pocket:

7) Add 2-3 chunks of pork, some water chestnut, and whatever else you want to add.

8) Add another few tablespoons of rice on top.

9) Squish the rice and meat down and make it as compact as possible.  Grandma packs it tight by giving it a few good smacks on each side.

10) Fold the end of the leaves over the top and push the sides of the leaves down.  Keep packing it all in as you're folding.

11)  Tie the leaves tight with string.  Grandma finds it convenient to hang the string over a doorknob.

 12) Repeat until you're out of rice, bamboo leaves, or pork.

13) Cook the zongzi by boiling them in a large pot for 1-2 hours until the rice is soft.  Halfway through, swap the ones on the bottom with the ones on top to ensure even cooking time.

14) Cut open the string and eat!

Fermented Rice Wine (Jiu Niang) (酒釀)

Here's a recipe I wrote down on December 11, 201 when grandma made a batch of fermented rice wine. I thought I'd taken some photos of the process too, but I can't find them. I'll add them later if they turn up.

This wine takes 2 days to prepare and 3 -5 days to ferment, depending on the season.

  • 5lb premium sweet rice
  • 1" ball of wine yeast
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • cheese cloth
  • strainer
  • a large clean jar, flashed clean with boiling water
  • a spoonful of flour
NOTE: all instruments used in this process must be super clean. Even one drop of oil can ruin this whole process. Flash every utensil you use with boiling water before using it.

  • The night before:
    1. make 5+ cups of sweet rice
    2. boil 2 cups of water, set aside and covered until the next morning.
  • The next morning (when rice is cooled):
    • strain rice through cheese cloth and strainer, adding the 2 cups of water.
    • get rid of the clumps using chop sticks
    • break apart 1 ball (1” diameter) of wine yeast
    • combine the yeast with rice one batch at a time
    • put the rice in a large jar with lid
    • save a bit of the yeast.  make a small hole in the top of the rice and add yeast and a spoonful of flour.
  • The wine will be ready in 4-5 days (winter), 3 days (summer).  leave it out with lid on.  you’ll know when the wine is fermented and ready to drink when the water level rises from the bottom.

Grandma's bread (大餅)

Grandma's been baking this bread since we were kids.  It's a thick, chewy bread that's slightly sweet and best when served warm.  Chris and mom especially love it.  My grandma and I made this batch on December 26, 2011.

The dough needs to sit overnight so start prepping it the night before you plan to eat the bread.

  • 1 5lb bag of flour
  • water
  • one packet of yeast
  • sugar
  • oil for frying
  • sesame seeds
  • honey
Here's what we used:

1) Soak the yeast in a bowl of warm water.

2) Fill a rice bowl with sugar; set aside.

3) Put most of the 5lb bag of flour into a large bowl.  Save about 1/8 of the flour in the bag to add in later.

4) Mix in the bowl of sugar

5) Slowly mix in the yeast while stirring the flour with chopsticks

6) Slowly mix in ~1.5 cups lukewarm water.  Grams drips it directly from the kitchen faucet.  Add water and keep stirring with chopsticks until the flour starts to clump together.

7) When a wet dough forms, knead a little bit, then cover with a wet cloth.  Let sit overnight in a warm place to rise.

8) By the next morning the dough should have risen twice the height you left it.  Add more flour to the dough and knead.  Roll out the dough into a log and cut into chunks.  Roll out each into a thick, flat bread and score the tops with a butter knife.

9) Cook the bread in about 2 teaspoons of oil over low heat.  

10) When the bread is browned on both sides, spread about 1/2 teaspoon honey on one side and sprinkle with sesame seeds.