Longwan Home is located in Dahua County, which was listed as one of the poorest counties in Guangxi Province. Longwan Home is a big family consisting of orphans, single parents, and abandoned children. The normal expenses of the Home are sustained by plantations, breeding, and small businesses.
Fragrant Chinese tamales (zongzi) means a fragrant kitchen. Fragrant aiye leaves means a fragrant whole house.
When it comes to talking about the Dragon Boat Festival, most children most deeply remember eating Chinese tamales. For children, wrapping Chinese tamales is a tradition that also unites the family. At the Longwan Home, we made about 200 Chinese tamales this year. Wrapping took an entire afternoon, and cooking took all night. A few of the older male students took turns watching the stove, adding wood or kindling the fire when necessary. A big thank you to the kids and also to the aunties and grandmas for helping with cooking!
First we cleaned the leaves used to wrap the Chinese tamales. Then we rinsed them once more with warm water. We prepared 70 kg of rice and the rest of the ingredients: glutinous rice, green beans, peanuts, pork belly. The glutinous rice was soaked and then drained.
Rural vs. Urban Customs
In rural villages, people make their own Chinese tamales for the Dragon Boat Festival. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that younger people don’t generally participate in these traditions; the middle aged and older adults are the ones who make the Chinese tamales. In urban areas like the county, people usually buy Chinese tamales from the market rather than making them from home.
Wrapping Chinese tamales is an art. It not only needs to look good but also needs to taste good. When wrapping tamales, the hand shape is key to wrapping them tightly.
2 Kinds of Tamales
We made two types of Chinese tamales, each with its own taste and shape. The triangular tamale is called “liang zong” (cold tamale). Rice is the only filling. People eat it with sugar if there is not enough flavor in the rice itself. Our main tamale was the "rou zong" (meat tamale).
Cooking All Night
After one afternoon of hard work from our Teacher Ban, aunties, and grandmothers, we finally finished wrapping the 200 tamales. The next step was to steam them. The kitchen only had one big pot, so we could only cook one pot at a time. It took us from 5pm to 9pm just to cook one pot, so we stayed up through the night to finish so the kids could eat the Chinese tamales the next day. A few of the 5th and 6th graders volunteered to watch over the kitchen through the night.
Everyone in the Longwan Home family was happy to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival and eat Chinese tamales! This is the taste of childhood and hometowns.
Original Article Written by Banai Hua, translated by Michael Chau, edited by Yanyan Zhang and Carolyn D.
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