Joong (or Zhong)

Joong (Cantonese) [or Zhong (Mandarin)] aka Rice Packet/Purse, is one of my very favourite things to eat.

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Joong is very time consuming to prepare, sometimes lasting an entire day, or even into the following day. My mom prefers to use banana leaves, though other large leaves may also be used. She cleanses them, then soaks and rinses, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The types of leaves used varies from region to region, country to country, and each kind of leaf adds its own unique smell and flavour to the rice. The rice absorbs the sweetness from its leaves.

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The rice packet/purse is actually a meal, like a sandwich with all the fillings. My mom uses pork belly, pork fat, salted duck egg … and sometimes she throws in red beans or peanuts, which get mixed in with the rice. Depending on region, the fillings will differ. My mom makes ‘em savoury, but in northern China, the joong is sweet, almost dessert-like.

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After shaping the joong, filling is then put inside – starting with the rice mixture, layering with meat and duck egg, then again with a layer of the rice mixture.

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The shape of joong differs among regions. The leaves are folded over the filling, which then is tied together with string. They must be tied tight enough so it doesn’t fall apart when boiled/steamed; however, tied too tightly will not allow the rice to cook – rather, it will be raw in the middle.

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Joong and Dragon Boat Racing are thought to have originated around the same time with relation to the death of Qu Yuan, a poet and highly ranked minister during the Zhou Dynasty. Apparently, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the river (Miluo). So admired by his people, they raced out in their boats in an attempt to save him/retrieve his body, thus the origin of Dragon Boat Races. Unsuccessful, the people threw sticky rice into the water in hopes that the fish would feed on them instead of Yuan’s body, thus the origin of Joong.

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Joong may have been made seasonally (during Dragon Boat Festival); however, they are available almost year-round in more Chinese populated cities. My mom always makes them at this time of year – I received a couple bags approximately three weeks ago. Thanks, mom! Mom makes joong whenever she feels like it.

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A family tradition to gather and make joong together, my mother almost always made them herself. She attempted to teach me when I was younger – I helped her season the rice, cut the leaves to size, cut the string, essentially just a sous chef.

Although she taught me many things, she, for some reason, must have thought this too advanced for me. I watched a lot, and can probably duplicate but not to her level of perfection. I am grateful mom still has her health to share her traditional dishes.

The next time you are in a restaurant having Dim Sum, order Steamed Sticky Rice, Wrapped, a version of Joong.

Have you had joong before? And what type of filling is your favourite?

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This entry was posted by Lillian on Monday, June 22nd, 2015 at 12:36 am and is filed under Chinese. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.