Wednesday, 21. September 2011 5:26
Last Saturday afternoon at Macy’s Union Square in San Francisco, I wrapped my first Chinese rice tamale ever — before a standing room-only crowd.
I couldn’t have done it without the good cheer and great instruction from Executive Chef Alexander Ong of the popular Betelnut restaurant in San Francisco.
Though I’d grown up eating these glutinous rice tamales stuffed with pork belly, mung beans and salted duck egg yolks, I’d never made one myself.
But what better time to try my hand at it than last weekend, when the San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival took place off the waters of Treasure Island.
The rice tamales (known as joong in Cantonese or zongzi in Mandarin) are the food most associated with the sport of dragon boating, which originated more than 2,000 years ago in Southern China.
According to legend, a popular poet and statesman was wrongly accused of treason. So despondent was he that he committed suicide by jumping into a river. Local fishermen, who admired the statesman, paddled out in their boats to try to rescue him to no avail. They beat drums and threw rice dumplings into the water to try to scare away fish and sea dragons from his body.