Ube, Walnut & Black Sesame Seed Zongzi (aka Rice Dumplings)

ube, walnut, black sesame rice dumpling zongzi

🐉🛶The Dragon Boat Festival is coming up (June 10th) and it is customary to eat zongzi, also known as rice dumplings! I thought I would share this creation for folks who are thinking of making their own zongzi (or just “doong” or “joong” in Cantonese, or in my parent’s home language “jaryn”). It is a delightful modern sweet twist on the classic Chinese rice dumplings featuring the rich sweetness of ube, the nutty crunch of walnuts, and the earthiness of black sesame, all encased in chewy glutinous rice. Perfect as a dessert or for snacking!

Originating from China and celebrated across Asia, the Dragon Boat Festival is a time for family gatherings, cultural festivities, and of course, enjoying delicious food. At the heart of this celebration are zongzi, also known as rice dumplings, wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with a variety of savory or sweet ingredients. While the classic zongzi flavors hold a special place in my heart, this year, I decided to get creative by exploring modern twist on this beloved delicacy.

Enter Ube, Walnut & Black Sesame Sweet Zongzi—a tantalizing combination of flavors and textures that will leave you craving more. Ube, or purple yam, brings its signature sweetness and vibrant hue to the mix, while toasted walnuts add a delightful crunch and nuttiness. Black sesame seeds impart a rich, earthy flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness of the ube, creating a harmonious symphony of taste with every bite.

But it’s not just about the flavors—eating zongzi is half about the experience! As you unwrap the zongzi from its bamboo package, you get the sweet fragrance of the bamboo leaves fills. Plus, there’s something inherently delightful and playful about enjoying these delectable treats directly from the leaves, adding an extra layer of fun to the eating experience.

Shaping the zongzi

There are many many way to wrap zongzi. There really isn’t a right or wrong to do it– my mom, for example, learned by simply just playing with folding the leaves. As long as you can create a tight packet to keep all the fillings in place, you are good! But understandably, it is nice to have pretty uniform packets, and since I am no expert, so I will defer you to a few excellent guides on how to fold zongzi in different shapes:

Storing the zongzi

Freezing: Zongzi is laborious to make, so oftentimes, similar to dumpling making, zongzi making is an event. Women would gather together and fold pounds and pounds of zongzi together. Then they will be boiled in huge batches, drained and cooled. After they have completely cooled, the zongzi will be tossed in plastic bags and frozen. So long story short, the best way to store the zongzi, if you do not anticipate eating them soon, is to store them in the freezer (up to 1 year).

Room temp & the fridge: The Chinese would also consider zongzi to be pretty shelf stable. According to my parents, they “last a long time [at room temperature]”. I would say, if you plan to eat the rice dumplings soon, you can keep it on the kitchen counter for about 2 days. Otherwise, they go in the fridge for up to a week!

Reheating

Steaming: My favorite way to re-heat zongzi is to steam them. This heats the dumplings up without making them wet. Simply steam the defrosted dumplings for 10 minutes (or longer if it is from frozen), then turn off the heat and let the dumplings chill in the basket for an additional 5 minutes before serving.

Microwaving: By far the fastest and most convenient method to re-heat zongzi is in the microwave. Place a zongzi bundle (frozen or defrosted) in a bowl half filled with water and nuke it in the microwave for about 1 minute, then flip the dumpling, and nuke it again for another minute. Increase the cook time if you are microwaving from frozen or you zongzi is exceptionally large. The cook time may vary depending on your microwave strength and size of zongzi.

Boiling: Lastly, you can re-heat your zongzi by re-boiling it. Add it to a pot and fill it with enough water to cover the dumplings. Then, bring the pot to a boil and allow the dumplings to cook for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer the dumplings to a plate to allow it to drain of excess water and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before digging in. The cook time may vary depending the size of zongzi.

Ube, Walnut & Black Sesame Sweet Zongzi (Rice Dumpling)

This sweet zongzi is a modern twists on the classic Chinese rice dumplings feature the rich purple sweetness of ube, the nutty crunch of walnuts, and the earthy sweetness of black sesame, all encased in tender glutinous rice wrappers. Perfect for dessert or snacking, these zongzi offer a harmonious blend of textures and tastes that will transport your taste buds to indulgent bliss, making them a must-try for any occasion!
Total Time2 days
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 6

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

The night before

  • Fully submerge 6-7 dried bamboo leaves in water and let it soak overnight.
  • Add 1 cup of sweet sticky rice in a large bowl and rinse with water until the water runs clear. Fill the bowl back up with water and let the rice soak overnight.

The next day

  • Add the walnuts and black sesame seeds into a dry pan and toast it on medium heat, constantly stirring, until they become fragrant.
  • Thoroughly drain the sweet sticky rice, add a pinch of salt, and combine it with the toasted walnuts and black sesame seeds.
    ube, walnut, black sesame rice dumpling zongzi
  • Shaping: I like shaping zongzi in a cone shape because it is nostalgic but you can shape the dumpling any way you want. The photo guide here shows how I fold my cone shaped zongzi.
    Fill the bamboo leaves with the rice mixture, then add a dollop of ube halaya in the middle, and cover with more of the rice mixture.
    Shape & secure with a string. Everything should be pretty tightly packaged and secure. If it is slightly loose, that is okay. If it is too lose, you'll have to start over. because cooking as is will result in the the filling leaking out during the cooking process.
    Repeat with the rest of the bamboo leaves and filling until everything is used up.
    zongzi rice dumpling cone shaping
  • Add the zongzi into a pot and fill it with enough water to fully cover the zongzi. Bring the pot to boil and let the rice dumplings boil for at least 30 minutes (time varies on the size of the zongzis).
  • Transfer the cooked zongzi to a plate or hang to dry and cool. Wait until the zongzi completely cools before enjoying.
    You can enjoy it at room temperature or heated up by steaming or zapping it in the microwave in a bowl with water for 2-3 minutes, making sure to flip the zongzi half-way.
    Alternatively, you can freeze the zongzi until you are ready to eat them. To re-heat, you can either steam or microwave from frozen, or let the zongzi defrost before doing so.
    ube, walnut, black sesame rice dumpling zongzi

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