The leaf-wrapped sticky rice dumplings zongzi (in Mandarin) or joong (Cantonese) are a snack enjoyed year-round in China, though they are especially popular in the spring. The long bamboo leaves are filled with either sweet or savory ingredients, and often made and enjoyed by families in the weeks leading up to the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day in the fifth month of the lunar calendar. We learned how to make these with Chinese home cook Mei Zeng, who's perfected her zongzi recipe after years of practice.
A pressure-cooker is not essential for preparing zongzi, however it will cut the already lengthy cook time down significantly. If you do have one, the larger the better. If you don't have one, pack dumplings snugly into a large, heavy pot and add enough water to reach about 1/2" from the highest layer of dumplings. Simmer the dumplings, covered, over medium-low heat for 3 ½ hours before draining and serving.
Keep extra bamboo leaves on hand as they tend to crack easily along their veins during shaping, and unbroken leaves make for the tidiest dumplings.
Dried chinese sausage, bamboo leaves, sticky rice, dried shiitake mushrooms, and raw peanuts can be found in most Chinese grocery stores, but if you don’t have a large Chinese community near you, many of the ingredients can be found at your typical grocery store, and the rest are available online.