The Cantonese, from southern China, use a different name for the Mandarin dish zongzi; they call it jung. Since both my mother’s family and chef Martin Yan are from Guangdong, I am going to use jung for the purposes of this recipe, as well.
From This Story
First, a primer on the main ingredients. “What’s not to like?” says Flavor and Fortune editor Jacqueline M. Newman. “It’s carbohydrates and protein.”
Rice, obviously, is the staple Chinese food, but pork is a close contender. That’s because it’s always been the most readily available, useless animal. “The cow was the farmer’s helping hand, so they didn’t want to waste it on eating his meat,” says Yan. “When you refer to meat, it means pork. If you want something else, you have to specify chicken meat, beef meat.” As for the mung, the shelled beans that resemble lentils, Yan says, “they’re to give textural contrast, and also to absorb some of the grease from the pork fat.”
Yan has an almost Proustian recollection of jung, which he stresses there is no one right way to make: “As far back as I can remember, around this time of year my mom would make some jung. The neighbors would make some jung. We all shared. Everyone might put something different inside, even if we were from the same neighborhood. It’s a tradition to exchange gifts of food. The same way that at New Year’s we bring oranges or tangerines to friends because they’re the color of gold, so we share jung at Dragon Boat time.”
My grandmother and her sister have been making and sharing jung every year for some four seven decades. For this year’s Dragon Boat Festival, I finally got my hands dirty and learned how to make it—though, in truth, my great-aunt did all the hard prep work. They differ on allowable extras—my grandmother likes to include black Chinese mushrooms, her sister thinks they dry out—but they agree on what basic ingredients constitute classic jung. According to my grandmother, you’re making jung right if it looks like a Chinese woman’s bound foot from a century ago. If you can get past that image, please enjoy this recipe:
THE CHU SISTERS’ JUNG RECIPE
2 ½ lbs of glutinous rice
1 lb mung (shelled green beans)
5 lap cheung (Chinese sausage) links
1 lb pork belly
1 package of dried bamboo leaves
Makes about 20.
The night before: