Japan – Shiitake Zongzi

by Zayna Khan

In a normal word, it is known by the name rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings. This is a Japanese dish with a few elements in combination. It is basically a rice dish, moreover rice dumplings and also be called rice cakes. Some filling mostly chicken and fish filing are made and cover all the rice with bamboo leaves and reed leaves. This is cooked by steaming, boiling, etc. This dish is not only famous in Japan but also in China and Taiwan.

This dish is also known by many different names in different languages. The names are also differentiated by using the different wrapping leaves, different fillings, and also shapes. The shapes of zongzi are usually triangular but it is prepared in other shapes like squares, rounds, etc. There are also very different presentations of this zongzi. In some of the cuisines, zongzi is served with some curry and dipped in it. It is served with salads and dressings. These types of condiments are variant from region to region. This can be served as snacks, appetizers, main dishes, etc.

This dish is historically dish influenced by Chinese cuisine. This is more like a fusion dish from Fusion cuisine. Fusion cuisine is a combination of two different national cuisines. This is a dumpling dish of Japanese origin.

This is washoku, traditional Japanese cooking. It is served in kaiseki (懐石), a Japanese Ceremonial Hi-tea. Rice is a staple ingredient of Japanese cuisine that is commonly used in any other Japanese dish. Meat consumption with filling stuffed in sticky rice and cover with any steamed bamboo leaves and reed leaves.


In the Burmese language, it is known as ”pya htote

In Myanmar, it is known by the name ”nom chang

In the Philippines, ‘machang” 

In Indonesia, it is known as ”bachang

In Laos, ‘khanom chang

In Thailand, it is called ”ba-chang

In Vietnam cuisine, it is called as bánh ú tro or bánh tro

In Singaporian cuisine, it is known by different names like ”bakcangbacang, or zang

Alternative names :

  • Bakcang
  • Bacang
  • Machang
  • Zang
  • Nom asom
  • Pya htote
  • Chimaki
  • Joong doong


During Dragon Boat Festival or Doubler Fifth Festival, this is the dish eaten regularly. This is the festival celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Calendar. Eating Zongzi on doubler fifth festival is the traditional festival celebrated around the Later Han period of 2nd–3rd centuries. During that particular period, sticky rice was wrapped by Manchurian Wild rice leaves. This dumpling was boiled in the water with LYE, a stronger Alkali agent.

In “Record of Local Folkways“, the eating of Zongzi in Festivals as the rice dumplings by Zhou Chu was very famous. He was a Western-era Chinese General and he loved to eat zongzi or sticky rice dumplings during the Chinese festivals.

In Jin Dynasty, these sticky rice dumplings are filled by using ALPINIA FRUIT. This special zongzi is called by another name, yizhi zong that means “dumplings to increase wisdom”. Because the use of ingredients in this dish like meat, chestnuts, red beans, alipina fruits are good for the memory and brain.

During the Tan dynasty, a new thing was introduced that is known as “tubular zong” because the use of bamboo tubes in wrapping the sticky rice was common. Moreover, the shape of these dumplings was conical or diamond-shaped. This is the classical tan Era of Japanese cuisine.

And the tradition evolved with the generations and every year in early May of the Japanese lunar calendar, glutinous rice dumplings are cooked and eaten in festivals.


In Northern style, Fillings are mostly:

a) TARO (里芋)

Taro is Edible Bulbo-tuber. It is the vegetable root, used as a staple food in Africa, North Asia, etc. This vegetable is very similar to Yams. Its leaves, vegetables, corms are used in many dishes.

It has many other names :

  • kalo
  • Dasheen
  • Madhumbe
  • Marope
  • Magogoya
  • Patra
  • Arbi
  • Godere


These are the leaves of the deciduous tree used in many Japanese dishes. Its flowers and fruits are also edible. The small Shrub of this is known as “hinap” or “finab”. This is consumed in different forms in dishes around the world.

  • Jujube seed
  • Raw Jujube fruit 
  • Smoked jujubes
  • black jujubes
  • Red date
  • Chinese date
  • Chinese jujube


The fillings are usually meat-based fillings :

  • Ham
  • Pork Belly
  • Shredded pork
  • Shredded Chicken
  • Chinese sausage
  • Pork Fats


This zongzi can have perfect shape because of the leaves wrapping. We can mold the leave into any shape and make it look like any of the shapes similar to anything.


The cone shape of zongzi is the most ancient and traditional shape. This is a triangular cone of filling rice and other stuff. Wrapping around with leaves of choice and the perfect shape is formed.


This is like a pocket box with some elongation.


This is a small box or pocket and has perfect shape is attained with the leaves.


a) Banlam zang (闽南粽)

These are very famous dumplings of Xiamen, Quanzhou area. This is made by using pork meat and some other ingredients like vegetables and seasonings. Some of the ingredients are :

  • Pork belly
  • Pork fats
  • Shrimp
  • Mushrooms
  • Pepper

b) Jianshui zong (碱水粽)

This is also called “alkaline water zong“. Because these are prepared and boiled in Alkaline water. lye zongzi water is used that has sodium carbonate. This is very basic and Alkaline water to be cooked in. This dish has no filling, only sticky rice, and bamboo leaves. But it is eaten with sweet syrup and some sweetener.

  • Redwood sliver
  • Red beans thin sweet paste
  • Light sugar syrup

c) Nyonya chang (娘惹粽)

This is Nyonya cuisine dish, this is cooked by adding very unique ingredients :

  • Pork mince
  • Peanuts
  • Blue pea Flower
  • Winter melons
  • Bamboo leaves
  • Pandan leaves

d) Sichuan zong (四川粽)

This is the spicy version of sticky rice dumplings. In its filing, Chinese prickly ash, and Rattan pepper is added. It has smoky and rusty flavors. This is made by using pork meat but other meat varieties are also be used.

It has spicy ingredients :

  • Chili powder
  • Rattan pepper
  • Chinese prickly ash
  • Sichuan salt


There are many fillings made in this dish from ingredients :

  • Pork
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Ham
  • Scallions
  • Nuts
  • Salted eggs
  • Salted salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Red beans
  • BlacK mushrooms
  • Lotus seeds
  • Chestnuts
  • Conpoy
  • Jujube
  • Mung beans


  • China
  • Taiwan
  • Japan
  • Mauritius
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia


  • Bamboo leaves
  • Reed leaves
  • Lotus leaves
  • Maize leaves
  • Pandan leaves
  • Shell ginger leaves
  • Canna leaves
  • Banana leaves


  • Glutinous sticky rice : 500 grams
  • Shiitake mushrooms : 1 cup
  • Salt : 1 tsp
  • Lotus roots : 2
  • Chinese ash pepper : 1/4 tsp
  • Light soya sauce : 4 tbsp
  • Sugar : 1 tbsp
  • Chinese spice powder : 1 tbsp
  • Bamboo sheets or leaves : 12
  • Pork belly : 250 grams


  • To cook rice, soak the rice with water for 2 hours.
  • Take a rice cooker or steamer and add soaked rice into it. Add equal amount of water with it and cook it to softened.
  • When rice is ready, let it cool down and leave it aside for further steps.
  • Take the bamboo leaves and soak them in water for half an hour.
  • In a pan add pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, salt, pepper, soya sauce, spice powder, lotus roots and cook it for half hour.
  • Add some water to cook in steam for half hour.
  • When the fat of pork belly releases to fry it it.
  • Shiitake mushrooms and pork belly fillings are ready, bamboo leaves are ready and rice are ready to assemble.


  • Take the leaves and make cone of it, add rice and shiitake filling and secure it from both sides.
  • You can make any shape from it.
  • When all the desire shapes are formed, add it in the steamer and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy 🙂

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