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Green Common Dragon Boat Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Green Common

The best rice dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival 2021

From the creative and indulgent to new healthier versions of this traditional snack

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Written by
Fontaine Cheng
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This year, Dragon Boat Festival lands on June 14 and we all know what that means: rice dumplings, or zongzi, galore. Traditional rice dumplings tend to lean on the rich and indulgent side with pork belly and salted egg yolks packed inside, but there are now new products out there that are more creative and even some that are healthier for you. Are you ready to get your dumplings on?

The legend: For those who aren't familiar, the festival is held annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a patriotic Chinese poet that drowned himself in the Mi Lo River in protest against corrupt rulers during the Warring States Period. It’s said that local people raced out in their boats to try and retrieve him – hence dragon boat racing – and when they couldn’t find him, they threw sticky rice into the river in hopes that fish would leave his body alone. This eventually turned into the tradition of eating rice dumplings on this day. 

RECOMMENDED: Those with a hunger for tradition should check out our list of the city’s oldest restaurants, or try foods unique to Hong Kong before hitting up these local bakeries.

Best rice dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

Crafted by Chinese executive chef Li Chi-wai, The Legacy House is offering two types of traditional-style dumplings in a gift set ($558) this year. The savoury rendition is a steamed rice dumpling featuring an auspicious amount of ingredients, or ‘eight treasures’, including South African abalone, pork belly, chestnut, lotus seed, conpoy, chanterelle, porcini, and shiitake, all of which have been seasoned with Shao Hsing Hua Diao wine, soy sauce, sugar and five-spice for deep flavour before it’s wrapped and slow-boiled for seven hours. Meanwhile, the sweet dumpling is made the traditional way by soaking the glutinous rice in alkaline water, before it’s stuffed with sweet chestnut and lotus seed. The dumplings are available until June 11 (a three-day advance order required) at The Legacy House and Rosewood’s online shop.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

The sexy seafood restaurant and Korean milk ice cream brand have teamed up to create a rattan basket gift set ($498) offering a savoury crab roe lava sticky rice dumpling with egg yolk, a Baekmidang sweet rice dumpling filled with red bean and red date, a jar of Sexy Crab’s house-made XO sauce for a flavour boost, and a jar of Korean rice sugar sauce to pair with the sweet dumpling. The set is available to purchase at Sexy Crab and across Baekmidang branches.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Mong Kok

The plant-based grocery shop is offering two dumplings this year with a creative OmniPork strip rice dumpling with porcini and vegan salted egg yolk ($69) made from mashed pumpkin, and the OmniPork rice dumpling with quinoa ($69), which returns this year with new festive packaging. Made for those who are health conscious, both dumplings are free from cholesterol, added MSG and preservatives, and they’re also lower in saturated fat and calories than the traditional snack.

  • Restaurants
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

After creating the largest South African abalone dumpling in Hong Kong in previous years, the abalone specialty store has launched two new flavours this year: a luxurious and luscious Hokkaido bafun uni with pork and egg yolk rice dumpling ($498) and an opulent black truffle and New Zealand abalone dumpling packed with pork belly, parma ham and egg yolk rice ($398).

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Yuen Long

For a taste of Southeast Asia, local cake shop brand Hang Heung is bringing a  Nyonya style rice dumpling ($108) with savoury pork belly, mushrooms, and pandan leaves to the table. The glutinous rice absorbs the gravy from the simmered pork belly, adding to it a light soy sauce colour, while a small piece of pandan leaf in the glutinous rice permeates the dumpling with its unique fragrance, and winter melon adds a fresh and sweet taste.

  • Restaurants
  • Central

Shanghainese restaurant Xia Fei Society is offering three longer and cylinder styles of dumplings to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival. The rice dumpling with egg yolks and soy sauce stewed pork ($50) offers nostalgic Shanghainese flavours, while the flavoursome Jinhua ham and egg yolk dumpling ($60) has a more intense flavour profile. For sweet dumpling lovers, the soft osmanthus and red bean paste dumpling (38) is the one for you.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

This year, Yung’s Bistro is offering two types of dumpling. According to an authentic Guangdong method and recipe, the roasted goose rice dumpling ($288) features Yung Kee’s charcoal-grilled roast goose combined with Japanese dried scallops, dried shiitake, salted egg yolks and pork belly. They also have an offer for discounted prices for bigger orders ($268/3; $258/6; $245/10 pieces). The other offering is an abalone and roasted goose rice dumpling ($1,480) made with the luxurious addition of whole South African abalone (four days advance notice is required). To purchase, customers can pre-buy vouchers and redeem them anytime between June 1 to 10.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Central
  • price 4 of 4

Chinese restaurant Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel has changed up its signature rice dumplings with a new ingredient this year in the form of rich foie gras, packed inside a glutinous rice dumpling along with conpoy, egg yolk, and termite mushroom. The three-Michelin-starred restaurant is also offering two gift sets that come with Iron Goddess Tea to aid digestion. The first set ($398) includes an osmanthus and chestnut dumpling and foie gras, conpoy and mushroom dumplings, while the second ($468) includes organic grain rice dumpling with abalone and conpoy.

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  • Restaurants
  • Central

The long-established Cantonese restaurant has partnered with Pinewood Wine to launch a new East-meets-West glutinous rice dumpling and wine pairing set ($388) for the festival. The dumpling itself is packed with pepperoni, parma ham, and cheese which pairs well with Pinewood’s Grand Reyne Blanc, AOC Boudreaux. Tsui Hang Village also offers three other traditional Cantonese rice dumplings including eight-treasure with conpoy; Chinese ham, parma ham and peanuts; and golden kumquat rice dumplings. You can get all four in their rice dumpling quartet set which is paired with the same wine ($498).

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Tsim Sha Tsui
  • price 4 of 4

The Peninsula’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, Spring Moon, has four indulgent dumplings this year including a deluxe glutinous rice dumpling ($348), and a premium glutinous rice dumpling ($648) made with rice pre-seasoned in abalone sauce and diced abalone, all simmered in a broth giving the dumplings a fuller flavour from the get-go. Meanwhile, on the sweet side, is a lotus seed paste and a refreshing and floral red date paste and lychee glutinous rice dumplings ($288 for the two flavours).

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  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Admiralty

This year, all three Shangri-La hotels – Island Shangri-La, Kowloon Shangri-La and Kerry Hotel  are offering a series of rice dumplings in gift boxes and hampers. Gift highlights include a premium rice dumpling gift set from Summer Palace ($888) which includes a fish maw, abalone, 88-month Joselito Iberico Ham and conpoy rice dumpling, with abalone sauce and Summer Palace X.O. Sauce; Shangri-La Master Chef Series ($598) which features an Iberico pork belly and cordyceps dumpling; and Taste of Asia Gift Box ($628) with six different rice dumplings, both sweet and savoury, within. 

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