Dragon Boat Festival is here, and just like any other Chinese holiday, there are special foods associated with the festivities.
The most popular snack for Duanwujie is zongzi, a triangular glutinous rice dumpling made with different types of fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Popular fillings range from savory to sweet, and can include egg yolk, meat, kidney beans and jujubes. (Read more about the origins of zongzi here).
These days, the creative geniuses at fast food chains and convenience stores across China have started stocking their shelves with their own takes on these festive dumplings. Intrepid That's foodies Emersyn Lyon and María Manrique tested out some of the more intersting variations from KFC, 7-11 and Starbucks so you don't have to. (You're welcome).
Which ones were the best? And which ones totally flopped? You might be surprised by their results...
This zongzi had the general aroma of your local KFC joint (don't lie — you know exactly what we're talking about) and looked like its 'best before' date was a few dynasties ago. It was plucked from inside a heater oven and then plopped down right before us. The ready-to-eat dumpling was warm and stuffed with The Colonel's special pork filling:
Smells like: Walking into a KFC restaurant
Tastes like: Seven herbs and spices
Rating (out of ten): 4/10 (Emersyn), 4/10 (Maria)
Comments: "It's not that bad but it looks hella sketchy." "I would not buy it again."
The 7-11 zongzi was composed of fermented bean sauce, ginger, scallion and some weird combination of pork and crawfish. From the looks of it, we coudn't quite tell what was inside this dumpling, so we settled on the description of 'mystery meat.' After heating the zongzi up in the microwave for 20 seconds, the mystery meat odors could be smelled throughout the entire That's Shanghai office. Unwrapping the dumpling felt a bit like unraveling a mummy, and as we took a bite into the snack we were overwhelmed by the profuse taste of MSG.
Smells like: "Those strong smelling Chinese sausauges that are just like 'no.'"
Tastes like: Processed meat
Rating (out of ten): 1/10 (Emersyn), 1/10 (Maria)
Comments: "Why is the expensive one the worst one?!" "I wish I could give this a -10"
The final—and most highly anticipated— of the zongzi trio was by far the most presentable. The bamboo leaf wrapping appeared fresh and the teabag-shaped zongzi was packaged neatly inside. Starbucks offers an array of flavors from mango to peach to coffee, all of which are recommended to be eaten chilled. We went for the coffee one, which was not at all like the dumplings we're normally used to eating during Dragon Boat Festival. Starbucks' dumpling was slightly sweet, frozen and rather chalky, but by far the most enjoyable out of the three.
Smells like: Does jello have a smell?
Tastes like: "Coffee jello... not bad. The filling tastes a little chalky or grainy. The overall texture tastes a little bit like flavored Play-Doh. How does coffee become a dumpling?"
Rating (out of ten): 8/10 (Emersyn), 6/10 (Maria)
Comments: "This one was my favorite." "Out of all the ones we tried it was definitely the best. "For twenty kuai it better be..."