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Travelogue: Travel to Jiaxing for a taste of China's famous zongzi
By Megan Zhang
Zongzi, or glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. /CFP

Zongzi, or glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. /CFP

It's said that you could travel all across China and never tire of the rice filled with various stuffings. From province to province, there is an endless variety of similarly carb-ilicious dishes to choose from. But my very favorite has to be zongzi, or glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. Each zongzi is a little package of scrumptious flavor, and the best Chinese city in which to sample them is — in my opinion — Jiaxing.

In this city, located about 100 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, zongzi are much more than just a treat for Dragon Boat Festival, which is when most of the country enjoys them. In Jiaxing, zongzi are a year-round staple, with ingredients such as savory pork, earthy chestnuts, and salty egg yolk making for a truly decadent meal. If you ask any Chinese person about Jiaxing, even if they can't locate the city on a map, they'll very likely still be able to tell you about its delicious zongzi!

Zongzi are Jiaxing's best-known dish — a pretty delicious food to be famous for! /CFP

Zongzi are Jiaxing's best-known dish — a pretty delicious food to be famous for! /CFP

What makes Jiaxing zongzi so tasty and sought-after is the star ingredient, marinated pork. The meat is lightly salted and ever-so-slightly sweet. While the zongzi boils for several hours, the fat melts and distributes its flavor throughout the sticky rice. The result is a rich and meaty package that is highly savory without feeling too greasy.

The process of making zongzi is an epic labor of love, often requiring more than a day from start to finish. The process begins with soaking the leaves and some of the ingredients overnight, ready for assembly and wrapping the next day, prior to boiling for several hours. 

Preparing zongzi is a lengthy process, but assembly lines have made things easier. /CFP

Preparing zongzi is a lengthy process, but assembly lines have made things easier. /CFP

Nowadays, though, zongzi-making in Jiaxing is performed by a well-oiled machine, with a strict series of steps which the workers must follow. These include adding a specified weight of stuffing, carefully creating the typical pyramid shape, and precisely tying each zongzi with twine. Today, machines and assembly lines have eliminated much of the manual labor involved in making zongzi, but it's said that the wrapping is usually still done by hand.

Once you've tried Jiaxing's famous savory zongzi, be sure to pick up some sweet varieties, too, which include add-ins like red beans.

Have you tried Chinese zongzi? What variety was your favorite? Let us know by tagging us on Facebook at @cgtntravelogue.

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