I didn’t know the name of this Chinese holiday when I was a kid, but now as an adult (and thanks to technology!), I’ve learned that the summer holiday I celebrated as a kid is the Dragon Boat Festival. My parents and relatives did not talk much about the sort of holiday we were celebrating; I just knew that come summertime, we would have zongzi or, in our Taishanese dialect, doong, which is glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.
It was a group effort to get the doong ready for consumption in our family: my grandparents and my mother would wash the bamboo leaves thoroughly at the restaurant kitchen, soaking the bamboo leaves for a period of time before they were ready for use. Meanwhile, my dad and uncles would get the glutinous rice and other ingredients ready.
When the bamboo leaves were ready for use, I would watch my mom, my grandmother, or whoever else was helping out, fold several bamboo leaves together to form a pocket and they would scoop in glutinous rice, a piece of cured meat (Chinese sausage, pork, duck, etc.), peanuts, and other ingredients. Then they would wrap the doong up tightly with the bamboo leaves and use twine to wrap around the packet and tie off for extra security.
Finally, the doong would be steamed for what seemed like a long period of time. When the doong was ready, though, so much deliciousness! At one sitting, I would eat 2-3 doong and be fully satisfied.
My family also made a sweet kind of doong that would be served with sugar for added sweetness. A few of my siblings did not like this type of doong, but I loved it a lot.
Sadly, these days I don’t get as much opportunity to have doong. When I lived in San Francisco, it was easier for me to find doong in Chinatown or any other part of the city that had a big Chinese population. However, I was also disappointed when I bought doong in a store; it was never as fresh and tasty as what my family made!
Every year around June I still ask my parents about doong; since they have retired from restaurant work, they feel they don’t have the capacity to make doong at home anymore. Since doong is normally made in the summertime, it is also tough for my aunts in California to send us any doong because of the high possibility of the food perishing in transit via snail mail.
Still, every year I am still hopeful I will have freshly made doong. Perhaps one day I will learn to make doong myself.