While I’m forced to indulge in my secret love of the universally panned mooncake in a darkened room during Mid-Autumn Festival all by myself, Dragon Boat Festival is the carefree holiday of the zongzi (粽子 zòngzi), a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in leaves. Only a summer holiday like Dragon Boat Festival can have two festive foods and encourage a playful rivalry over which is the superior one: Team Salty or Team Sweet.
However, as Chinese relive an early millennial fad of the Great Zongzi War of Salty Vs Sweet, we need to remind readers that yes, like every other food in China, there are counterfeit versions that you should avoid at all costs.
As you enjoy your short vacation, here are the ways to differentiate between a real zongzi (seen above to the right) and a fake one (left):
- zongzi that look especially green may have had their leaves dipped in chemicals during the soaking process. The typical chemical additives used are industrial copper sulfate (CuSO4) and copper chloride
- as seen in the picture above, the leaves of the fake zongzi look unnaturally green. It looks unrealistic in the same way people’s skin looks unrealistic in skin care commercials or on clips of old Max Headroom episodes
- when steaming regular zongzi, the color of the leaves will darken and get yellow, and the water below will become a light yellow
- fake zongzi will have a sulphuric smell when cooked, and the water below will turn green like its leaves
We’re sure most people can tell the difference; after all, people lose their appetite when their kitchen smells like the Eye of Sauron. But then, advertisements and pictures on the internet may lead people to have certain expectations on what a zongzi looks like. For example, would you eat this?
Happy Dragon Boat Festival, everyone. Make Qu Yuan proud.