Wikipedia says they're cooked by steaming or boiling. Searching further, I've found plenty of people saying their way is the best way. Assuming they're well-made and won't leak when boiled, why would I pick one method over the other?

  • Interesting. I didn't know what zongzi was until I looked it the wiki. Interesting similarity between that, tamales and pasteles. Just because of that, I would tend to lean towards steaming, but the very in-depth Serious Eats Article goes with boiling for the highlighted recipe, but says other variations are generally steamed. – Jolenealaska Nov 15 '14 at 2:57
  • Steaming is gentler than boiling, just think of how vegetables cook when steamed vs. when boiled. It's the same thing. Boiling will be quicker, but increases the chances of splitting and leaking. You know what this means ... you have to try both and see which one you prefer :) – Ming Nov 17 '14 at 2:49

I have looked extensively and it seems that whether to boil or steam is determined by region and it is as subjective as the fillings used. See below from this page .

Other variations include using black instead of white glutinous rice, or precooking the rice and filling, or steaming instead of boiling, or even wrapping into a cylindrical shape or a flat paddle shape instead of a pyramidal one.

You may be able to make a decision based on certain factors of your recipe. For example:

  • Some recipes call for the rice to be soaked while others call for it to be cooked. If I was using soaked rice I would probably choose boiling as the zongzi may become too dry with steaming. Same idea for other ingredients.

Another consideration would be how well the zongzi are wrapped. If they are wrapped very skillfully, either way could work. However, if not, the filling could come out much easier with boiling.

So, in the end, I would say that there really isn't a really definitive answer. I think I would use the method called for in the recipe as there may be specific reasons the prescribed cooking method was chosen.

  • Thanks for doing the research! I think all of the recipes I saw called for soaked, not cooked rice, and I'm pretty sure some said to steam them. Am I misremembering? – Cascabel Dec 16 '14 at 18:54
  • No, you are correct. I was just using that as an example. There seem to be as many variations as people making it. I literally looked at 60+ pages thinking that eventually someone would say that one way or the other was better and why. Apparently it is widely accepted that there are a million different combinations of ingredients, ways of wrapping, and whether to boil or steam. – Cindy Dec 16 '14 at 19:21
  • Awesome, thanks. And yeah, given how traditional the food and culture is, not only do people have their preferred ways, but they're often very convinced it's absolutely the only right way. – Cascabel Dec 16 '14 at 19:27

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