Next week is Dragon Boat Festival (duanwu 端午), and the big dish is the very tasty rice dumpling wrapped in banana leaf. Known as zongzi (粽子), these come in both savory and sweet flavors. It’s a great tradition, and probably your Chinese friends and relatives are passing them around as gifts — but there can be some bad batches among these, so it’s a good time to review the basics of choosing the safest zongzi. The always useful Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety has a special article on how to choose, by using the five keys to food safety, a topic I’ve discussed often before. Here’s part of their advice:
CHOOSE the reliable shops. Look at the general hygiene of the shops. The rice dumplings should be properly kept in chillers. Choose only those rice dumplings well wrapped in undamaged leaves. If the rice dumplings have been packaged as pre-packaged products, check for the storage instructions and expiry dates, as well as the ingredients, allergens, manufacturers and packers on the labels. Never buy rice dumplings from doubtful sources or illegal hawkers, beyond expiry dates, or with chemical smells.
I usually just microwave my frozen zongzi for a couple minutes, and I’ve never had a problem. You can read the rest of the Hong Kong Centre’s article here, via Centre for Food Safety – Seasonal Food Safety Tips for 2010 – Enjoy Rice Dumplings during the Dragon Boat Festival. You can read more about zongzi at Wikipedia.