Joong (粽)

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(This post was first drafted June 2022) 


Joong  () is a savory sticky rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and string. It is traditionally made for Dragon Boat Festival, which occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. There are a few origin stories of joong but this is the one I grew up with: In 278 BC, a famous poet, Qu Yuan, of the Chu Kingdom drowned himself in the Miluo river after the Qin army overtook over Yingdu, the Chu capital. In commemoration of his death, people threw sticky balls into the river so that the fish would eat the rice instead of his body. 

While most people may associate joong with dragon boat races and other festivities, I will always think of my人人 (ngin ngin), my paternal grandmother.

grandma-with-joong(Isn't she the cutest?)

人人的粽 Ngin Ngin's joong

On my dad's side of the family, making joong was a whole event on its own. Preparations started at least a month in advance with jars of eggs soaking in a brine solution to create salted egg yolks, and then leaves would soak for a week before we would use them. We prepared ingredients on a large scale -- after all, my grandmother had 8 kids, 6 of which lived near her in the Boston area, and everyone wanted to take home joong. So on joong-making day, my aunts and I would pile into my grandma's small home, ready to make joong to bring home to our families. 

The ingredients would be laid out across my grandmother's dining room table -- sticky rice, pork belly, pork slices, Chinese sausage, salted egg yolks, and peanuts. We would crowd around the table, reaching over each other to scoop ingredients into the bamboo leaves folded in our hands. My aunts' loud voices (borderline yelling) and boisterous laughter filled the room as they gossiped about the latest happenings in our family. I would sit next to my grandmother to learn how to fold the bamboo leaves and pile in the ingredients in the correct way. I would watch her wrinkled hands expertly fold the joong into its signature tetrahedral shape, her corners perfectly pointed and the joong beautifully triangular. Years later, even when Alzheimers had mostly taken away her ability to form newer memories, her hands would remember how to make the perfect joong. In contrast, my young inexperienced hands would tightly grip the dumpling in fear that it would fall apart otherwise. I would fumble with the leaves and plead for help from my grandmother when rice grains would inevitably start spilling out of cracks. My grandmother would laugh, and rescue my half-fallen apart joong with extra leaves and care. Year after year, I would return to her kitchen with my aunts to make joong and after a few years, I started to get the hang of it. 

Making joong in 2022


Making joong this year was a different than usual. My 人人 passed away on April 28, 2022 after living a long and fruitful 97 years. It had already been a few years since my aunts stopped gathering at my grandmother's house -- kids had grown up and moved out, and arguments had created rifts in our family. However, my mom helped to keep up the tradition in our family by hosting our own joong-making parties, and we would always bring over 人人 for her expert help. We also invited other family and friends to join and learn the art of making joong.

This year, not only was my grandmother not here, but I was making the joong alone in my apartment. My boyfriend had finally caught covid after dodging it for the past 2 years, and we were isolating ourselves in our apartment. Luckily I was still testing negative, so my mom dropped off the ingredients to me and I got to work. 

Though I prefer to make joong with others, making it alone provided some benefits:

1- I prepared the joong from beginning to end (except for making my own salted eggs). Normally, since we made them in a group, my grandma/parents/aunts helped to prepare the ingredients -- soak and flavor the rice, roast the peanuts in the wok, cut all the different meats, slice the egg yolks with thread. Thankfully, I had documented the joong making process two separate times over the years, so I had a recipe to work off of -- a rare occurrence when it comes to Chinese family "recipes". I still made some mistakes, like slicing my lap cheung too thin, but I made it through.

2- I was able to take my time to take photos and videos of the process. It's still difficult for me to film and cook at the same time, but it's fun working on a new skill. 

3- It gave me time and space to reflect on my grandmother's passing. She was a huge culinary inspiration to me growing up. I'm grateful for all the times I sat next to her, watching those hands work magic, from making joong, to platters of dumplings for birthday parties, to steamed buns for all her grandkids. Because as much as my scientific brain loves precise measurements and detailed steps, sometimes I just have to let my other senses-- sight, smell, touch-- to guide my cooking, and my cooking "intuition" could only have been formed from years of watching and cooking alongside great cooks like my grandmother. 


Reviews ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Before we launch into the lengthy process of making joong, let me convince you that all the effort is worth it via these unsolicited reviews:

From my boss, a.k.a. my mother: 


 I need no other validation than an A+ from my mother! But here are a few more anyway.

From my sister-in-law and her parents:


From my brother and sister-in-law, who tried some restaurant joong (a foreign concept to me): 



From my brother, who wanted to make sure he made it onto the blog post:


Convinced yet? Then buckle up and let's dive into the recipe!




Gathering and Preparing Ingredients:


Gathering and preparing the ingredients is the most labor-intensive part of this process, but don't let that deter you! We're also basing this recipe off a 5lb bag of rice, which makes about 35-40 joong. That may sound like a lot of joong, but once you start giving them away to friends and family, they'll go quickly!

Ingredient list:

  • 5 long grain glutinous rice*
  • 3lbs of raw peanuts with skin 
  • 30-40 salted egg yolks
  • 70-80 pieces of dried shrimp
  • 12oz pack of dried bamboo leaves
  • 1.5 lb pork belly
  • 1lb cooked cha siu (Chinese roasted pork)
  • 5-7 lap cheung (Chinese sausage)
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Butcher's twine

Preparing the ingredients

Bamboo Leaves (2 days ahead)

  • 12oz pack of dried bamboo leaves (~160 leaves)
  • Splash of white vinegar
  1. Fill a large and deep pan/basin with water and submerge the leaves. Separate the leaves to ensure that water gets in between the leaves. 
  2. Soak for 2 days, changing the water twice a day 
  3. On the day of making joong, boil a large pot of water with a splash of vinegar. Stack a bunch of leaves together and fold in half to fit in the pot and lower into the boiling water. Fit as many leaves as you can this way. Allow water to come to a boil again, then lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. 
  4. Fill your deep pan/basin with cold water. Remove the leaves from the pot, unfold them, and place them into the cold water. Keep leaves in the water until you're ready to use them
  5. Once you're ready to assemble your joong, take a handful of leaves out of the water, and place them on a large sheet pan. You want the leaves to stay slightly wet so they are pliable. 

* Note: My grandmother used to wipe down each leaf with a paper towel or sponge after the leaves had been boiled and cooled. I've skipped this step without much issue, but recently in June 2023 when I did wipe the leaves down with paper towels, I did notice some residue left on the paper towel. Maybe they should be wiped down? 

Pork Belly (2 days ahead)

  • ~1.5lb slab of pork belly, skin removed, deboned
  • Salt
  1. 2 days before making joong, generously season the pork belly slab with salt and let it marinate in the fridge for 2 days
  2. After 2 days, blanch the pork belly. Boil a large pot of water and lower the pork belly into the water. Cook for about 5 minutes before removing it from the pot.
  3. Allow pork belly to cool until it is cool enough to handle
  4. Slice pork belly into pieces approximately 3cm x 5cm x 0.5cm pieces


  • 5lb long grain glutinous rice
  • 2.5 Chinese soup spoons (~50g) salt
  • 2 Chinese soup spoons (~26g) neutral oil 
  1. In a large bowl, wash the rice with lukewarm water. My grandmother would grab a handful of rice and scrub them between her palms. Pour out the water and repeat 3-4 times until the water runs mostly clear. Drain the rice.
  2. Season the rice with salt and oil, and mix thoroughly


  • 3lbs of raw peanuts with skin 
  • Hot water
  • Salt for seasoning (sorry, eyeballed this one!) 
  1. In a large bowl, soak the peanuts in hot water to clean the peanuts of some of the skin's coloring. Soak for about 5-10 minutes, and then drain. Repeat once more.
  2. Heat a wok or cast iron pan on medium-high. Without adding any oil, add the drained peanuts to the heated pan. Season with salt and toss the peanuts until they are lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Scoop seasoned peanuts into a bowl

Salted egg yolks

  • 30-40 salted egg yolks
  • Sewing thread
  1. Depending on how much you like salted egg yolks, you can cut your egg yolks smaller or larger. We typically cut them into either thirds or halves, and we'll be putting two pieces per joong. 
  2. For a clean cut, use a sewing thread and wrap it once around the egg yolk. Pull the ends of string and the string should slice through the egg yolk. See my grandma using this technique below!


Dried Shrimp

  • 70-80 pieces of dried shrimp
  • Warm water
  • Oil
  1. Soak dried shrimp in warm water until rehydrated (about 10-15 minutes)
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and then stir fry the dried shrimp for 3-5 minutes
  3. Set aside in a bowl

Cha Siu (Chinese roasted pork)

  • 1lb cooked cha siu
  1.  Slice cooked cha siu into 0.5cm thick slices
  2. Set aside in a bowl

Lap Cheung (Chinese sausage)

  • 5-7 lap cheung (Chinese sausage)
  1.  Diagonally slice the lap cheung into 6-8 pieces each 
  2. Set aside in a bowl


Prepare your work station

Finally, you've got all your ingredients prepared! Set them out on the table with spoons/chopsticks/tooth picks to help you easily pick out ingredients to put into your joong. For the rice and peanuts, you'll want to use Chinese soup spoons to both measure and scoop the ingredients. 

Next, we usually tie a plastic bag around our chair to hold the butcher's twine (used to tie up the joong). This way the ball of twine won't roll away while you work with it.

Lastly, we usually keep an open paper grocery bag next to us to store finished joong. 


Assembling the joong

You should just watch the video below to see how to assemble the joong, especially when it comes to folding the leaves and wrapping the string. Not even sure what use written instructions will do, but I'll provide them anyway.

  1. Pick 2 leaves of similar size, and lay one of them partially on top of the other. The stem/veins of the leaves should both bump out in the same direction
  2. Fold the leaves in half and then create a pocket/cone with them. Hold this cone in your left hand and you're ready to scoop the ingredients. 
  3. Scoop 1 Chinese soup spoon of peanuts into the corner
  4. Lay out 2 Chinese soup spoons of rice on top. Spread the rice out to create an inverted triangle shape
  5. Layer in the meats -- pork belly, cha siu, lap cheung, 1 piece each
  6. Place 2 dried shrimps into the joong - one on the top half, one on the bottom half
  7. Place 2 pieces of salted egg yolk into the joong -- one on the top half, one on the bottom half
  8. Add another 1-2 scoops of peanuts
  9. Add 2-3 spoons of rice, and spread it out into the inverted triangle shape again. The top of the filling and rice should slant slightly downwards from the bottom tip of the triangle to the top of the inverted triangle. The overall shape should look slightly tetrahdral.
  10. Find a 3rd leaf that is long and wide. With the stem on the left side and vein facing out, wrap the 3rd leaf around your joong.
  11. Fold the left side of the 3rd leaf down, then the right side to form the bottom corner (bottom tip of the inverted triangle)
  12. Then use your right thumb to form the crease and two top points, and fold the top bunch of leaves over and down. 
  13. Grab your butcher's twine and measure about 100cm (or 40") from the end of the string. Take this point and pin it to the middle of the joong, holding it down with your left thumb. With your right hand, wrap the free end of the string from the top corners down to the middle in horizontal stripes (like college-ruled lined paper).
  14. Hold the free end down with your left thumb, turn the joong 180 degrees, and take the ball-end of the string and wrap it from the corners down to the middle in horizontal stripes. 
  15. With both the free end and ball-end coming into the middle from horizontal directions, twist them together 90 degrees so that they are now facing the vertical direction. Take the ball end and wrap the joong vertically once, meeting back at the middle again.
    * NOTE: If you need to distinguish different batches of joongs, you can use the vertical stripes to indicate the batch (e.g. 1 stripe for peanut joong, 2 stripes for red bean joong). 
  16. Twist free end and ball-end joong 90 degrees again and wrap the ball-end around horizontally once more. 
  17. Tie the free-end and ball-end together in a double knot, and cut the string. 
  18. If any of the tips of the leaves are sticking out, you can snip off the extra length for a cleaner look.
  19. Give the joong a good few pats all around to distribute the rice and filling into all the corners 
  20. Admire your work before putting it into your paper bag. 


Cooking the joong

With an Instant Pot (preferred, quicker)

  1. Fill your Instant Pot with the assembled joong. In my 6qt Instant Pot, I can fit about 12-15 joong at a time. Make sure to stay below the "MAX" line.
  2. Add enough cold water to submerge all joong.
  3. Cover with lid and make sure your vent is sealed, then cook on High for 45 minutes. Since my Instant Pot doesn't allow you to choose the pressure level on Manual Mode (ironic), I use the Meat/Stew function which puts in on High Pressure and then I adjust the timing to 45 minutes.
  4. After it has finished cooking, allow it to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before either quick releasing or letting it continue to naturally release the pressure.
  5. Remove joong from the Instant Pot and allow to cool slightly before eating.
  6. If continuing to cook more batches, I've reused the water in the previous batch to cook the next batch without much issue. You'll have to add some fresh water to make sure all joongs are submerged.


With A POt on the Stove

  1. Fill pot with joong and add enough water to submerge joong
  2. Cover pot and bring it to a boil, then lower to medium heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check on the pot periodically to make sure there is enough water. If you need to add water, I suggest boiling water in a kettle and adding the boiled water to your pot. 
  3. After 2 hours, swap the top and bottom halves of the batch by taking the joong out and restacking them in with their positions flipped. 
  4. Cook for another 2 hours, or until the joong is cooked all the way through. 


storing joong

Joong will keep in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a few months. To freeze, just put the cooked joong (still wrapped in the bamboo leaves + string) into a freezer bag. 


Reheating joong

Steaming (Preferred / my go-to)

Steam the joong for 15-20 minutes. If reheating from frozen, steam for 20-30 minutes.


Boil for 15-20 minutes if fresh/thawed. If frozen, boil for about 25-30 minutes. 

Microwave (Quickest)

Take a wet paper towel and wrap it around your joong. Microwave joong on High for 4-5 minutes. It's preferable to microwave thawed/refrigerated joong, but if you forgot to take it out of the freezer, you can still microwave it -- the outside might just get slightly overcooked and hardened. Wrap the frozen joong in a wet paper towel and microwave for 6-7 minutes, or until heated through.


Eating joong

At home

Cut and/or unwrap the string. Unfold the leaves and plop the joong onto a plate, and enjoy. 

On the go

No container, no fork? No worries! Joong can be eaten like a banana -- just unravel the string (don't even need to cut it) and "peel" the leaves halfway down. Enjoy your joong, and then toss out the leaves and string! Eco-friendly wrapping!! 









I'm Alicia, the floundering cook. Thanks for joining me on my kitchen adventures. I hope you can pick up a few tips or tricks while you're here. Happy cooking!

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