I just ate for the very first time a "joong" or as it was described to me an "Asian-style tamale." The joong looks very much like a tamale at first glance. It is wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied with strings. "Joong" is the Cantonese word for this type of delicacy and "Zongzi" is the Mandarin word for it. In either word, for this reporter the best word is "delicious!"
I am so fortunate to have wonderful co-workers, collegues and friends around me who like to share foods, recipes, ideas and experiences. To have this makes life blessed and fulfilling.
The "joong/zongzi" I enjoyed was made by Rose Dong, a realtor and interior architect here in San Francisco.
A chef as well, she explained that the "joong" is not easy to make. "It takes some time and requires the right ingredients," said Rose. "Salted duck yolk eggs, special sticky rice, cooked just right and a salted pork and seasoned sausage," she noted were some of the ingredients. For me, they all make for a subtle yet hearty flavor. "This is special, I don't make these for just anybody," she said.
It is an honor to enjoy something made fresh that is not made everyday. From what I understand "joong/zongzi" are made for a special occasion like the Dragon Boat Festival. Another source I found on the Internet said referred to the festival as the "double fifth festival," which is celebrated in summer on June 6.
What struck me first when Rose presented me with the "joong" was the universality of so many foods. The leaves or husks tied with strings, that idea obviously is not exclusive to just one culture or one region of the world.
I think every part of the world, every tribe and culture might refer to certain foods in different ways, but in reality when "boiled down" so to speak, it is really all the same. Only, it takes on slightly different characteristics.
For example the tamale is made with corn, the "joong" is made with rice. The tamale is wrapped in corn husks, the "joong" is wrapped in bamboo leaves. Both are labor-intensive and both are served for special occasions and holidays. See the similarities!
For me the "joong" is very satisfying. Subtle flavors and textures fill the palate. What is also wonderful is the fact that it is a new discovery and one that I would like to enjoy again. For like tamales "joong" is made in a variety of ways, filled with other fillings like shrimp or mushrooms. As something that is home-made and not usually made by restaurants, the "joong/zongzi" varies from region to region depending upon custom, etc.
I look forward to having this specialty again. Yet I realize it might be a while before I have another opportunity to do so, because, I understand, as Rose said, "these are special - something not made everyday."