It is Friday, a day from the Dragon Boat Festival. People from the office at Hujiang I work in are rushing to the kitchen, with the word zongzi radiating through their dialogue. My co-worker Sophia explains to me that zongzi is a traditional Chinese dish that consists of rice stuffed with different pieces of food or pastes, all wrapped together in a bundle of leaves. I make my way to the kitchen and there on the table I find myself face to face with two boxes full of zongzi, one filled with dates, the other filled with pork.
My fellow international worker Sekou and I both look at the triangle shaped leaf bundles with questioning expressions, each waiting for the other to make the first move. I pick a pork zongzi up in my hand and untie the small strings that keep the leaves, containing the ricey contents within, tightly pressed together. I have never been more unfamiliar with a piece of food in my life, and neither Sekou nor I knew the proper way to go about eating it.
“Do I just bite into the leaf?” I ask.
“I was a little skeptical about eating it because of it’s presentation being wrapped in bamboo leaves and not being fully aware of what’s on the inside”, said Sekou at the end of the day.
“I assumed that you just take the strings off from around it and eat it all together with the bamboo leaves, which looked edible. Apparently that’s all wrong so don’t be the uninformed American that everybody laughs at." Sekou explained, "The proper way to eat it is by unwrapping the strings, removing the bamboo leaves and eating what’s on the inside.”www.qz365world.com
I finally determine that I must unwrap the leaves, which reveals a piece of the rice beneath, which I boldly bite into. The rice is sticky, tastes somewhat like oatmeal, but with the chewy consistency of a gummy bear. The flavor is noticeable, but not overbearing. Finally I reach the middle and bite into the pork filling, which gives the zongzi an overall savory taste. Content with my snack but craving more I pick up one of the date filled ones. This time I confidently unwrap it like a pro and look around with asmug smile on my face for anyone who might of taken notice in admiration, which I suppose, in retrospect, was no greatfeat at all.
I bite away at this zongzi until I reach the middle and am met with an entirely new palate of flavors, this time sweet and savory. I have concluded that I do in fact like zongzi and the rice makes for an excellent counterpart for various different fillings. With the Dragon Boat Festival upon us, I look forward to eating many more.
Sekou also loves Zongzi. He told Josh, "It was so good I could not help myself but to eat three of them while others where still trying to unwrap their first one. I’m glad to have been able to experience this celebration in Shanghai and can’t wait to blow my friends mind when I tell them about Zongzi."