The most creative Shanghai zongzi

The most creative Shanghai zongzi

Forget run-of-the-mill pork zongzi, this year Dragon Boat Festival's chefs are stuffing in just about anything they can get their hands on
Shanghai zongzi - main
These Shanghai zongzi might look like your traditional fare, but this season, what's inside those leaves will have your tongue praising Chinese innovation.

Shanghaining’s love for their zongzi goes well beyond the Dragon Boat Festival.

Once only available in June, these triangular rice dumplings are now year-round standards, with leaves filled with pork and red bean found in supermarkets, convenience stores and even the tiny family-run street stalls any month of the year.

So what good is Dragon Boat Festival without its own breed of munchies?

Chefs around the city are now using the holiday to get creative with this staple, ditching the regular fillings for more exotic offerings.

This Dragon Boat Festival (端午节), we find six creative Shanghai zongzi to try.

Shanghai zongzi -- mangoThe translucent skin makes this Starbucks zongzi stand out from the stack.

1. Rice-skinned mango zongzi

Made by: Starbucks
Price: RMB 10 for one mango zongzi; RMB 98 for a gift box with assorted flavors

After helping mooncakes make the shift from a traditional food for China's past generations to a chic snack for the young, Starbucks is now turning its attention to zongzi.

Coming in four contemporary flavors -- mango, mocha, coffee, and green tea with red bean -- Starbucks’ Ice Star Rice Dumpling is smaller than traditional rice triangles, and looks far more appetizing.

As the only flavor available in an individual pack, the Mango Ice Star Rice Dumpling comes wrapped in the traditional leaves, but underneath, the creamy mango filling is more appealing than the usual pork bits.

Starbucks, multiple locations, Yuyuan No. 2 store, 101 Yuyuan Lu, near Fuyou Lu 豫园路101号, 近福佑路, +86 21 6373 0110


Shanghai zongzi -- lotusYou've seen this as a mooncake flavor, now lotus root has made the jump to zongzi. A good thing?

2. Lotus paste zongzi

Made by: Wufangzhai
Price: RMB 7.5 for two zongzi

You might have tried your share of lotus paste mooncakes, but this is probably the first time you found this flavor in a zongzi wrapper.

As one of the most well-known zongzi brands in eastern China, Wufangzhai -- which made its name with traditional pork zongzi -- has enough foodie cred to branch out a bit and try its hand at a few more unorthodox flavors, lotus paste zongzi being one of their more successful attempts.

“It's delicious -- [this zongzi] has a strong fragrance with moderately sweet taste,” says 52-year-old Shanghai resident Xu Gengrong, after trying one.

Wrapped in fresh and fragrant leaves, the lotus paste filling is sweet, but not greasy, making it a perfect Dragon Boat dessert.

4/F, GMS (Daxing Lu), 18 Daxing Lu, near Lujiabang Lu 华联吉买盛 (大兴街店) 4楼, 大兴街18号, 近陆家浜路, +86 21 6345 9888


Shanghai zongzi -- cornThis Shanghai zongzi adds a bit of veggies to the mix.

3. Corn and sticky rice zongzi with a chocolate fragrance

Made by: Xinghualou
Price: RMB 6.5 for two zongzi

Although better recognized for their mooncakes than their zongzi, Xinghualou is well known enough in Shanghai that they get the benefit of the doubt from local foodies to try just about anything. Enter the corn and sticky rice zongzi.

This rice triangle with a chocolate fragrance is one of the newer zongzi flavors Xinghualou offers. Gold corn kernels are mixed with the colorful wuchangmi (五常米), a specialty rice from northeastern China, giving this dumpling a eye-popping color clash.

In addition to the light taste, this zongzi is made with healthy, whole coarse grains, making it popular among waistline-conscious snackers.

4/F, GMS (Daxing Lu), 18 Daxing Lu, near Lujiabang Lu 华联吉买盛 (大兴街店) 4楼, 大兴街18号, 近陆家浜路, +86 21 6345 9888

If you want to stick to the basic pork Shanghai zongzi, find out how to make your own at "June is for zongzi".

Shanghai zongzi -- hongshao rouNo glow-in-the-dark pork here.

4. Hongshao rou zongzi

Made by: Wufangzhai
Price: RMB 12.9 for two zongzi

Filled with one of Shanghaining’s favorite dishes, soy sauce braised pork, this zongzi has more than its share of sugar and salt, hitting the mark on the sweet-and-savory combination the city craves.

“This is the first time I’ve tried this flavor, and I love it,” says 52-year-old Shanghai resident Sun Xuchan.

Although similar to normal pork zongzi in appearance, the hongshao rou zongzi replaces the half-lean, half-fatty meat combination with braised, lean meat, giving them a chewier texture and a stronger flavor.

4/F, GMS (Daxing Lu), 18 Daxing Lu, near Lujiabang Lu 华联吉买盛 (大兴街店) 4楼, 大兴街18号, 近陆家浜路, +86 21 6345 9888

Shanghai zongzi -- meigancaiShanghai zongzi adopt hangbang cai flavors.

5. Meigancai pork zongzi

Made by: Xinya
Price: RMB 10.5 for two zongzi

Braised pork with meigancai, plum dried vegetables, are a staple of Hangbang cuisine (food from Hangzhou). As the cities are a mere 45-minute train ride apart, it’s no wonder that the dish has also become a mainstay of the Shanghainese dinner table.

For these alternative zongzi, the makers leave the traditional triangle wrapper behind and opt for putting the fragrant meigancai, braised pork and sticky rice mixture into rectangular zongzi leaves.

Meigancai absorbs the pork fat, so even these meaty squres aren’t greasy as traditional zongzi meat options.

Lu Haofei, a 20-year-old Shanghai college student,  calls this mix one of her favorite types of zongzi.

“It’s delicious and there’s so much meat. I’ll definitely recommend it to the others.”

4/F, GMS (Daxing Lu), 18 Daxing Lu, near Lujiabang Lu 华联吉买盛 (大兴街店) 4楼, 大兴街18号, 近陆家浜路, +86 21 6345 9888

Shanghai zongzi - largeName a flavor. Chances are its packed inside this massive zongzi.

6. Pillow family zongzi

Made by: Xinghualou
Price: RMB 35

Weighing 580 grams, this enormous zongzi is shaped like a pillow and is enough for one family. This is the biggest zongzi we have seen so far.

Various ingredients are put in this larger-than-a-bread-box-sized rice dumpling, including green beans, mushrooms, barbecue pork, dried scallops and even chopped roasted duck.

Want to impress your guests? Dip the pieces in sweet-and-spicy sauce or in crushed peanuts, the flavor mix is perfect.

Shanghai No. 1 Food Store, 255 Meilong Lu, near Longzhou Lu 上海第一食品商店 (梅陇店), 梅陇路255号, 近龙州路, +86 21 6454 9799

After you have had your fill of Shanghai zongzi, read on at "Has the Dragon Boat Festival lost its meaning?"