Recipe courtesy of Vivian Chan for Food Network Kitchen

Instant Pot Zongzi (Joong)

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 day 2 hr (includes soaking times)
  • Active: 2 hr
  • Yield: 8 sticky rice dumplings  
For as long as I can remember, my family always ate joong, as they’re called in Cantonese (or “zongzi” in Mandarin), around Dragon Boat Festival. But I only learned how to make them as an adult when I asked my mother-in-law about the process. Her family recipe originated in her village of Toishan in Guangdong Province, China. I was shocked but also intrigued by the level of dedication required for this humble dish of stuffed glutinous rice cooked in bamboo leaves. There were weeks of coordinating among a group of ten aunties to decide when and where to hand-stuff and tie 150 to 200 of the bundles (a two-day process). They would then find the largest stockpots in the neighborhood to boil the joong for about 8 hours per batch over the course of another two days. The enormous effort resulted in enough food to share among friends and family while commemorating the holiday. This adaptation of my mother-in-law's recipe uses much smaller quantities and employs an Instant Pot, drastically cutting down on the cooking time of these delicious sticky rice dumplings. I hope this streamlined version makes it easy to enjoy the dish with your loved ones.



Special equipment:
a 6- to 8-quart Instant Pot® multi-cooker
  1. Put the bamboo leaves in a large stockpot and cover with 2 inches slightly warm water. Feel free to fold moist leaves in half. Place a heavy dinner plate directly on top to fully submerge the leaves. Soak until the leaves are dark green and very pliable, 10 to 24 hours. (The water may darken during soaking.) Drain the bamboo leaves in a large colander. Fill the stockpot halfway with fresh water.
  2. Thoroughly wipe both sides of each leaf with a clean sponge or dish cloth, then rinse under running water. Stack them in a pile and return to the stockpot. Always top with a clean plate to fully submerge the leaves in the water. (The leaves can be kept submerged in the fresh water for up to 2 days).
  3. Whisk together the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar and five-spice power in a small bowl until well combined. Add the pork belly and turn until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Remove the pork belly from the fridge 1 hour before assembling the zongzi.
  4. Rinse the rice under water in a large bowl until the water runs clear, 4 to 5 times. Cover with at least 2 inches water and soak for 2 hours. Rinse the mung beans in a medium bowl until the color of the beans lightens, 3 to 4 times. Cover with at least 1 inch water and soak for 2 hours. Cover the shiitakes with at least 1 inch water in another medium bowl and soak until squishy and filled with water, about 2 hours. Put the peanuts and dried shrimp in separate small bowls; cover each with at least 1/2 inch water and soak for 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, slice the sausage on the bias into 8 even slices and split the egg yolks in half. Set aside in two separate bowls.
  6. Drain the shiitakes and wipe out the bowl. Using kitchen shears and a paring knife, remove the hard stems and discard. Cut each mushroom into 4 slices; return to the bowl. Drain the peanuts, shake to remove the excess water and return to the bowl. Repeat with the dried shrimp; roughly chop any that are larger. Set the 3 bowls aside.
  7. Drain the rice in a large fine-mesh strainer, shake to remove the excess water and return to the bowl; add 2 teaspoons salt with the oil and stir with a rubber spatula until well combined. Drain the mung beans in the large fine-mesh strainer, shake to remove the excess water and return to the bowl; add 1 teaspoon salt and stir with the rubber spatula until well combined. Set both bowls aside.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble the zongzi: Take 2 bamboo leaves that are about the same size and shake off the excess water; lightly pat dry. Stack them shiny-sides up, slightly overlapping the leaves lengthwise. Gently fold into a cone (do not make a hard crease, which will crack the leaves) at the midpoint of the stack, with the longer ends pointing up.
  9. Hold the cone with the leaf tips pointing toward you. Fill the pocket with 3 leveled tablespoons rice and 2 leveled tablespoons mung beans. Use a rubber spatula to pat down and level the surface of the filling. Add 4 to 6 peanuts, 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, half salted egg yolk, 1 piece of Chinese sausage, 2 pieces of shiitake, 1 piece of pork belly, then another 4 to 6 peanuts, 2 tablespoons mung beans and 3 tablespoons rice. The pocket will be very full. Use the rubber spatula to push down and level the surface of the filling along the length of your palm. Grip the middle of the cone, forming the letter "C" with your dominant hand. Tap the cone once or twice on a cutting board to help the filling settle to the bottom, never letting go of the C-grip. (It’s fine if a little water starts to leak out--that's from the soaked mushrooms and rice.) With the opening facing you, fold the protruding leaf ends over to neatly enclose the rice dumpling. Use both hands to shape the cone into a pyramid with the tip at the bottom and the base at the top. Grip tightly and prepare to tie.
  10. Using your nondominant thumb, hold 1 piece of the butcher’s twine against the ends that are folded over, leaving about 6 inches of twine dangling on one side. Make several loops widthwise around the zongzi traveling down its length. Be sure to pull the twine tightly as you loop to prevent the rice from spilling out during cooking. Then make a double knot with the 6-inch length that was dangling. Use this knot to transition and loop around the zongzi lengthwise, then double knot the two ends of the twine. Cut off the excess twine and trim any extra bits of leaves. Practice makes perfect! The first one is going to look rough, but it will get better. Repeat with the remaining bamboo leaves, fillings and twine.
  11. Place the zongzi in a 6- to 8-quart Instant Pot®. Fill with enough water to leave 2 inches of space from the maximum fill line. Set to pressure cook on high for 1 hour (see Cook’s Note). After the pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer's guide for natural release and wait until the natural release cycle is complete. Set to keep warm for 1 hour.
  12. Using tongs, carefully remove the zongzi to a plate and let cool slightly. (It’s fine if the corners of the zongzi release a little bit of rice.) Using kitchen shears, cut off the twine and remove the bamboo leaves, if desired. Transfer to a dinner plate and serve as is or with additional light soy sauce. Enjoy!
  13. To store extras, once the rice dumplings are completely cooled, refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. To reheat: Place on a steamer rack in a large saucepan, cover and steam for 15 minutes from the refrigerator; 30 minutes from frozen.

Cook’s Note

Dried bamboo leaves for zongzi are available at Chinese markets and online. The number called for in the recipe includes extra leaves, just in case some rip.