During the annual Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, my family eats Toisan-style joong (zongzi in Mandarin). Joong is typically made up of bamboo or reed-wrapped glutinous rice and fillings, and the style of wrapping and types of fillings differ across regions. Some are sweet and others are savory, but even within those two categories, many variations exist.
What is Toisan-style joong?
(click play on the video to see our freshly-made joong!)
My parents grew up in villages in Guangdong Province, China (Kaiping and Foshan) so our Toisan-style joong is savory and packed with pork belly, Chinese sausage, salted egg yolks, mung beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, and dried scallops. Those are typical ingredients you might find in a Toisan-style joong, but every family also makes their own differently.
Because of all those different filling ingredients (and the preparation required for each), our Toisan-style joong is the most labor-intensive thing (it's a 3 day process!) our family makes all year.
My 90 year old grandma used to make these every year, but stopped a few years ago because of how labor-intensive it was. My mom has since taken over, and my friends and family always say my mom makes the BEST joong! I'm excited to share my mom's version here with a step-by-step guide to make this less intimidating to try.
What are the main ingredients you need to make Toisan-style joong?
sweet glutinous (sticky) rice
Sweet glutinous rice, or sticky rice, is absolutely essential when making traditional joong. Both sweet and savory joong use sweet glutinous rice, and unfortunately regular rice or even short grain rice can't work as a good substitute because they'll just fall apart.
The stickiness of the rice helps form the shape of the joong while it cooks and holds all the filling together. (It also just tastes really good!)
For joong, the sticky rice needs to be washed well (to remove extra starch), soaked for several hours, then drained well before wrapping.
protein: pork belly + Chinese sausage
Most Toisan-style joong I've seen (including my family's) use both pork belly and Chinese sausage. We marinate the pork belly with Shaoxing wine, salt, oyster sauce, five spice powder, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, and neutral oil overnight. We don't use soy sauce in the marinade, because we don't want it to discolor the the sticky rice during cooking.
My mom likes to get pork belly that has a good mix of lean and fatty parts. The fat parts mostly disintegrate while cooking, flavoring the filling and the sticky rice, while the lean parts become fall-apart tender.
The Chinese sausage is my favorite part of the joong because it absorbs and steams in all the savory and fragrant flavors of the other ingredients. We like to slice each Chinese sausage into 4 long quarters (1 quarter per joong).
salted egg yolks
You can use either homemade or store-bought salted egg yolks. If you ask my mom, she'll always say that homemade is better! But I know that not everyone has the extra time to make these at home, so I included tips for buying salted egg yolks from the supermarket below.
how to make your own homemade salted egg yolks (in bulk)
My parents actually prepare for joong 2 months ahead of time by making their own salted egg yolks. Here's a quick tutorial for how they make their homemade salted egg yolks:
for 50 eggs (we make more than we need, in case some crack):
- Bring 3 gallons of water to boil. Dissolve 3 ¼ lb of salt (this is 2 containers of Morton iodized salt) into the water. Make sure the salt fully dissolves, then turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- The eggs need to be washed well and very carefully. If there are any cracks, these won't work. Drain until dry, then dip in a bowl of Chinese white liquor, also known as baijiu (~50% ABV), to disinfect the shells. Drain until dry.
- Pour the room temperature salt water into a large bucket or container (we use a 5 gallon bucket). Carefully add all eggs to bucket. If the eggs float to the top, weigh them down with something like a colander or plate.
- Cover and let sit in room temp dark place for 50-55 days (mark the date)! If you soak for longer than that, the yolk might dissolve. If you don't plan on using it yet but have been soaking it for 50-55 days, remove it from the salt water and separate the yolks from whites, then store them in the fridge until you need them.
store-bought salted egg yolks
If you buy store-bought salted egg yolks, the tastier (but often more expensive) kinds are the ones that come packaged in the whole egg (see below on the left). The ones that are just the yolks vacuum-sealed (on the right) don't always have the same great taste or texture. That's just our personal experience though!
peanuts and mung beans
Raw peanuts need to be soaked for 2 hours to soften them. Then we stir-fry them with oil, salt, chicken bouillon powder, and white pepper. It only needs to be stir-fried for a minute or so, to release its nutty fragrance and flavors before wrapping the joong.
Mung beans need to be soaked for 6-8 hours. They're then stir-fried with the same seasonings as the peanuts above.
Prior to wrapping the joong, my mom likes to mix the peanuts and mung beans into the soaked sticky rice. This accomplishes 2 things:
- It saves time when wrapping joong because you don't have to separately add the peanuts and mung beans -- one scoop of the rice includes both of those fillings
- My mom says it's better at preventing blood sugar spikes when rice is mixed with nuts and beans (just her theory!)
dried shrimp and dried scallop (optional)
Both dried shrimp and dried scallop provide extra fragrance and flavor to the joong. Dried scallop is pricey compared to the other ingredients, so it's not essential, but we love it for our joong.
For the dried scallops, we typically use the ones that are about the size of a nickel.
Both will need to be soaked (dried shrimp 2 hours, dried scallop 6-8 hours) to rehydrate, then stir-fried with oil, ginger (to remove any unpleasant smells or flavors), and seasonings (a little salt and white pepper). Once the dried scallops are rehydrated, gently shred them with your fingers before stir-frying.
cotton string and scissors
While this isn't a food ingredient, make sure to have cotton string and a pair of scissors handy when you're wrapping the joong! It's essential to tie up the joong tightly and prevent spillage during cooking.
How to make Toisan-style joong (3 day timeline)
You can find the full details and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this page
3 days before wrapping joong
- Prepare the bamboo leaves
- dried bamboo leaves need to be soaked and washed before being used to wrap (full details in the recipe card)
1 day before wrapping joong
- Boil the bamboo leaves
- Marinade the pork belly
- Soak the filling ingredients
- sweet glutinous rice, mung beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, dried scallops all need to be soaked before they're ready to use (the ones requiring shorter soak times can also be done the morning of wrapping joong)
1 day before OR morning of wrapping joong
- Prepare the other filling ingredients
- Chinese sausage, separate salted egg yolks from whites
Morning of wrapping joong
- Stir-fry the filling ingredients
- the peanuts, mung beans, dried shrimp, and dried scallop will be stir-fried with some oil and seasoning to bring out their flavors
- Mix the rice with mung beans, peanuts, and seasoning
How to wrap a Toisan-style joong
To wrap efficiently, arrange all your ingredients in this order: bamboo leaves first, then mixed rice, pork belly, salted egg yolks, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, and dried scallop last.
At the end of your station, have cotton string and a pair of scissors ready to tie the joong after wrapping.
How to cook Toisan-style joong
Place the wrapped joong in a large pot. You can stack the joong on top of each other. Fill with water and bring to a boil (this may take a while depending how large your pot is). Once the water is boiling, set a timer for ~3 hours.
After that, they should be ready to eat, but you can take one out and open it to make sure. The rice should be soft and sticky, and the pork belly should be fall-apart tender.
How to store and reheat Toisan-style joong
Store cooled joong in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to a couple months. Reheat by steaming or boiling for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is all heated thoroughly.
Check out my other traditional Chinese recipes:
- Chinese Turnip Cakes
- Mooncakes with Salted Egg Yolk and Lotus Paste
- Mooncake Filling (Lotus Paste) from Scratch
If you enjoyed this Toisan-style joong recipe...
I'd be so grateful if you left me a review below!
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Toisan-style Savory Joong (zongzi)
for the bamboo leaves:
- 160-200 dried bamboo leaves (each joong requires 3-4 leaves, get extra to be safe as some leaves in each batch may not be useable)
- 1 lemon (optional)
- vinegar (optional)
- cotton string (for wrapping the joong)
for the rice:
- 5 lb long-grain sweet glutinous rice (aka sticky rice)
- 3 tablespoon salt
- ⅓ cup peanut oil or neutral oil
- 4 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
pork belly marinade:
- 2.5-3 lb pork belly (doesn’t have to be exact, just make sure to get 40 sizable pieces, make sure there’s good mixture of fat and lean layers)
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1.5 tablespoon salt
- 1.5 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon five spice powder
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
other filling ingredients:
- 10 Chinese sausage
- 40 raw salted egg yolks (the ones that come in whole eggs are better than packaged salted egg yolks)
- 80-120 small or medium dried shrimp (or 40 large dried shrimp)
- 1 ¼ lb raw, unsalted peanuts
- 12 oz dried mung beans
- 20 small dried scallops (about the size of a nickel each; if using smaller scallops, use more)
for stir-frying filling ingredients:
- neutral oil
- a few slices ginger
- chicken bouillon powder
- white pepper
Prep bamboo leaves (3 days before wrapping joong)
- In a large container or pot, soak the dried bamboo leaves in water with a few slices of lemon. Change the water daily.1 lemon, 160-200 dried bamboo leaves
Boil bamboo leaves (1 day before wrapping joong)
- Drain the bamboo leaves from their soaking water. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and boil the bamboo leaves for 45 mins - 1 hour. Optionally, add a few teaspoons of vinegar to the boiling water.vinegar
- After at least 45 mins of boiling, carefully drain the water. Gently wash the leaves by either lightly scrubbing the leaves against each other or by using a clean sponge to wipe the leaves. Do your best to not rip or split any of the leaves, as they'll be harder to wrap with.
- Do a last rinse, and let sit in water until tomorrow. This will keep them more pliable for wrapping.
Marinade the pork belly (1 day before wrapping joong)
- Slice pork belly into 2 inch chunks (40 pieces total for 40 joong) that have both fat and lean layers.2.5-3 lb pork belly
- Marinade the pork belly with the ingredients below. Mix well, cover, and let marinade in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, 1.5 tablespoon salt, 1.5 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon five spice powder, ½ tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon neutral oil
Soak ingredients (1 day before wrapping joong)
- Rinse and then soak the dried mung beans in a large bowl of water, making sure to completely submerge the beans. Repeat for the dried scallops in a separate bowl. Soak these for at least 8 hours or overnight.12 oz dried mung beans, 20 small dried scallops
- (can also be done morning of wrapping joong) Wash and soak the dried shrimp and raw peanuts (separately) in water for at least 2 hours.80-120 small or medium dried shrimp, 1 ¼ lb raw, unsalted peanuts
Prep other filling ingredients (1 day before OR day of wrapping joong)
- Wash the sweet glutinous rice well until the water runs mostly clear. Soak in a large bowl of water for 2 hours. Set a timer, and after 2 hours, let the rice drain in a colander while you prep the other ingredients.5 lb long-grain sweet glutinous rice
- Slice each Chinese sausage into long quarters (you should get 4 long pieces per sausage).10 Chinese sausage
- Separate the raw salted egg yolks from the whites.40 raw salted egg yolks
Stir-fry the filling ingredients (Morning of wrapping joong)
- Drain the dried shrimp, dried scallops, peanuts, and mung beans.
- Heat up a pan on medium or medium-high heat and stir-fry the peanuts with 1 tablespoon of oil, a pinch of salt, a pinch of chicken bouillon powder, and a dash of white pepper. This is just to season the peanuts and bring out their flavor, so just stir-fry for 2-3 mins. Remove from the pan.neutral oil, salt, chicken bouillon powder, white pepper
- Do the same with the mung beans.neutral oil, salt, chicken bouillon powder, white pepper
- Stir-fry the dried shrimp with a little oil, a few slices of ginger, a tiny pinch of salt, and a dash of white pepper. These cook faster, so 1-2 min should do.neutral oil, a few slices ginger, salt, white pepper
- For the dried scallops, separate them into shreds with your hands or with a fork. Stir-fry with a little oil, a few slices of ginger, a tiny pinch of salt, and a dash of white pepper. Similar to the shrimp, this should only take 1 min of stir-frying.neutral oil, a few slices ginger, salt, white pepper
Mix the rice (Morning of wrapping joong)
- In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the soaked rice with the seasonings, and stir-fried peanuts and mung beans. Make sure the peanuts and mung beans are evenly distributed!⅓ cup peanut oil or neutral oil, 4 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder, 1 ¼ lb raw, unsalted peanuts, 12 oz dried mung beans, 3 tablespoon salt
Wrap the joong
- Drain the bamboo leaves. Arrange all your ingredients in this order so that you can wrap efficiently: bamboo leaves first, then mixed rice, pork belly, salted egg yolks, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, and dried scallop last. At the end of your station, have cotton string and a pair of scissors ready.cotton string
- Refer to the wrapping tutorial video for how to wrap a joong. They don't have to look perfect, just make sure they're wrapped tightly to prevent rice from spilling out while cooking!
Cook the joong
- Place the wrapped joong in a large pot. You can stack the joong on top of each other. Fill with water and bring to a boil (this may take a while depending how large your pot is). Once it's boiling, set a timer for ~3 hours (larger pots may require more time). After that, they should be ready to eat, but you can take one out and open it to make sure. The rice should be soft and sticky, and the pork belly should be fall-apart tender.
- Store cooled joong in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to a couple months. Reheat by steaming or boiling for 15-20 minutes.