Amy, the one bonafide Chinese mom in our church group makes the best zhong zhes (basically, Taiwanese tamales). So, I had asked her if she would teach me how to make them and after several months, she willingly obliged. Lucky for me, her lesson happened to fall on the day of Noah’s birthday and zhong zhes are one of his favorite foods, so he got to come home to my first ever freshly-made zhong zhes for his birthday meal.
There are a lot of components to making zhong zhes, so I broke it down into the following parts…
Amy’s Zhong Zhe Recipe
1 lb pork, cut into ½” thick slices (2-3” long)
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
sugar, to taste
pepper, to taste
Marinate pork overnight.
sweet glutinous rice
sugar, to taste
- Wash and rinse rice.
- Place rice in a bowl and fill the bottom with water, soy sauce and chicken broth. Add a little bit of sugar to the mixture.
- Turn the rice to combine with liquid. If desired, add black sesame seeds and scallions to the rice.
- Taste the liquid to see if it tastes right, and make any adjustments.
- Soak and refrigerate overnight.
Folding & Filling Zhong Zhes
Bamboo or Reed leaves, 2 per zhong (try to find the freshest, greenest ones)
Soaked Rice (see above)
Marinated Pork (see above)
- Soak leaves in water.
- Cut off the tip on one side of each leaf, creating a straight edge, about 3 inches down from the tip. Discard tips.
Folding Zhong Zhes…
- Take two leaves and overlap them, so that the smooth sides of each leaf face you and so that the back/bottom leaf lays about ½”-1” to the right of the front/top leaf. Straight edges should be at the top.
- Fold the straight edges down about 2-3”.
- Place your thumb just inside the first layer of leaves from the left and push the remaining layers to the right about ¾ of the width of the leaf, creating an opening. Crease the leaves along the length to the right, about ¾ of the width of the leaves. You should now have created a corner pocket with your leaves.
- Place the corner pocket in the palm of your left and use your hand to keep the shape of the corner pocket while you fill your zhong zhe.
Filling the Zhong Zhes…
- Fill the pocket with the rice mixture. Use your finger to push the rice to fill the corner pocket. Make a bed/indentation in the rice for the pork.
- Take one slice of pork and lay it on top of the rice.
- Take another scoop of rice and cover the pork.
Sealing the Zhong Zhes…
- Take the bottom of your leaves and fold them over the rice, to enclose the rice and pork.
- Make a crease in the leaves at the bottom right to create your third corner. Continue that crease along the right length of the zhong zhe, folding over the length of the leaves around the curve of the zhong and holding them in place with your hands.
- Push the left length of the zhong zhe to secure the rice in place and then crease your fourth and final corner at the bottom left. Continue the crease along the left length of the zhong zhe, folding over the length of the leaves around the curve of the zhong zhe and holding them in place with your hands.
- Use a string and wrap it around the zhong zhe at least 5-6 times, remembering to leave some string at the start to tie off the zhong zhe.
- Tie the string tightly in place.
Cooking the Zhong Zhes
- Place zhong zhes in a large pot. Fill pot with water until zhong zhes are just covered. Add soy sauce and a bit of salt to the water.
- Turn heat to high until water boils. Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours.
- Turn zhong zhes so that any exposed parts are now submerged. Add 2 more cups water, boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for one more hour.
- Enjoy and freeze any leftovers for later.