Recipe for the Dragon Festival Favorite, ZongZi

This year’s Dragon Boat Festival is still a little far away (June 12), but we to give you enough time to find all of the ingredients for today’s recipe, zongzi. Zongzi are relatively easy to make, and are a common dish at the Dragon Boat Festival, for many believe that townspeople threw zongzi into the river to keep fish from eating the body of Qu Yuan. In essence, zongzi are composed of sticky rice and a combination of other fillings, from red beans to corn and pork, all wrapped in a bamboo leaf.  Today’s recipe from Eating China will surely make your mouth water!


          40 large bamboo leaves, dried

          2 lb. long grain sticky rice (must be glutinous rice)

          4 lb. pork belly, sliced and cubed

          10 salted duck egg yolks

          40 dried shiitake black mushrooms

          20 chestnuts, dried and shelled

          10 spring onions, chopped

          2  ¼ cup dried radish

          ½ cup small dried shrimp

          7/8 cup of shelled peanuts with skin

          5 cloves garlic, crushed

          1 tsp. black pepper

          2 star anise

          1 ½ tsp. sugar

          1 tsp. five spice powder

          ½ cup soy sauce

          ¼ cup rice wine

          Vegetable oil


1.      Soak rice for three hours. Drain

2.      Let mushrooms soak in a separate bowl until tender. Remove salt and chop into halves or thirds.

3.      In a separate pan, stir fry the pork until it is lightly browned, and then add in chestnuts, rice wine, soy sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, the star anise the the five spice powder. Let this boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Afterwards, remove the pork and chestnuts and set them aside.

4.      In a separate pan, boil the peanuts for 30 -60 minutes, or until they are tender.

5.      Cut the duck yolks in half and then set them aside.

6.      Finely chopy the dried radish, stir fry with the sugar and garlic. Stir fry shrimp and onions until tender

7.      In a large mixing bowl, add in rice, peanuts, radishes, onions, 2 tsbp. Oil, shrimp and some liquid from the stew. Mix thoroughly

8.      Allow the bamboo to soak for five minutes in warm water, then rinse with cold water.

9.      Wet the string so that they are easier to tie and bend.

10.  Position the leaves on a plate or counter top so that their tips are pointing in the same direction, with the tip of one leaf overlapping the curved end of the other leaf.

11.  Use both hands to bend the leaves approximately 2/3rds along the length of their spines, so that they form a

12.  Mix in rice, pork, mushrooms, egg yolk, and chestnuts. Firmly press with a spoon, and fold the leaves over the top of the zongzi. Once the leaves are secured, tie them as you would a shoelace. They should have a pyramid shape.

13.  Steam the zongzi for one hour, unwrap from the bamboo leaves and serve.

If you want to see other zongzi recipes or learn more about the Chinese Dragon Festival, the following sites are a great start:


Eating China ( where today’s recipe came from):

The Hong Kong Cookery:

Serious Eats:

Travel China Guide:


Are You Celebrating this Year’s Chinese Dragon Boat Festival?

On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, Chinese and Taiwanese citizens celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. The origins of the festival are contested, but many will commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan or Wu Zixu, who was killed for offering the king military advice. While Dragon Boat races are now a  popular sport worldwide , the original festival was used to promote a sense of community, offer entertainment, and to several famous figures in Chinese history (such as Qu Yuan).

How did Dragon Boat Racing Come to Be?

There are numerous theories and myths as to how the Dragon Boat Festival came into existence, but by far the most popular tale is that of Qu Yuan, a government official in the State of Chu. Prior to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), there were seven divided states in what is now mainland China. Qu Yuan suggested joining forces with the State of Qi in order to battle against the State of Qu, as well as fortifying the military. Many noblemen disagreed with Qu Yuan’s strategies, and Qu Yuan is believed to have in turn criticized the aristocrat Zi Lan, which subsequently led to his being exiled ( Traditional Chinese Festivals)

While in exile, he wrote numerous patriotic poems that exemplified his love for his country that would later earn him much acclaim and renown amongst Chinese citizens. On the fifth day of the fifty month in the year 278 BC, Qu Yuan was told that the State of Qin has captured his homeland(the State of Chu), so he later drowned himself in a nearby river due to the distressing news.  When the townspeople had heard of his death, fishermen took to their boats in order to find his body, and local citizens threw food into the river so that fish would leave Qu Yuan’s body intact ( Travel China Guide).

The Dragon Boat Festival is also attributed to Wu Zixu, the son of a royal tutor in the State of Chu. After overhearing rumors of rebellion, The King ordered Wu Zixu’s father to be killed, so Wu fled to the State of Wu, where he befriended Prince Guang. There, he was appointed to coordinate the King’s military stratagems, and to construct a city (now called Suzhou) that incorporated environmental and celestial harmonies. In 506 BC, after a successful capture of the Stateof Chu, he was renamed the Duke of Shen.

Wu Zixu’s good fortune began to cease after the King’s death,  and was largely distrusted b the new king, King Fuchai. Wu Zixu warned King Fuchai that he must capture the neighboring State of Yue before its king attacked the State of Wu. The king instead listed to the advisor Bo Pi, who  had been bribed by the State of Yue into fooling the king. Before he carried out his imperially-imposed death, Wu Zixu asked to  have his eyeballs placed on top of the city gates so that he could watch the State of Wu fall to the State of Yue.  His body was later thrown into a river near Suzhou. Within ten years, the King of Yue had conquered the State of Wu and King Fuchai chose to end his life due to intense shame and regret.

Despite the popularity of the tale of Qu Yuan, many still believe that the Dragon Festival is honor or Wu Zixu, who also died on the fifth day of the fifth month.  Moreover, many commemorate not only his death, but his strong love and devotion to his father and brother, both of whom were executed by order of the King of Chu. Wu Zixu’s tale is so inspiring and touching that in some parts of China, he is viewed as a  of river god called “God of the Waves” ( Beijing International).


How do People Celebrate the Festival in Contemporary China?

Due to Qu Yuan and Wi Zixu’s dying on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, many commemorate their deaths with the Dragon Boat Festival. Boats are carved to have dragon heads and bodies, because dragon spirits were traditionally believed to the guardians of rivers,  Since the intense rowing mimics the fishermen’s harried search for Qu Yuan’s body, the festival simultaneously takes on an athletic, religious, and communal significance ( Traditional Chinese Festivals)

People also cook zongzi, or rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves, because it is believed that Qu Yuan’s mourners threw this into the river to feed the fish. Depending on the region, zongzi will be filled with glutinous (sticky) rice, jujube, red beans, corn, or pork. It is also popular to drink realgar wine, which a doctor has poured into the river so as to intoxicate and pacify the marine life (Traditional Chinese Festivals)

Many people will hang mugwort and calalmus leaves in their households during the Dragon Boat Festival , because their fragrance is believed to repel mosquitoes and sanitize the air. You may also find a picture of Zhong Kui, a fierce warrior, hung in homes this time of year, as his portrait is believe to scare away demons and harmful spirits ( Children typically wear a five-color thread around their wrists, ankles, and neck, so as to protect them from disease. The children cannot speak to their parents while they are tying on the strings, nor can they remove the thread and toss into the river until the first summer rain has fallen. It is also popular practice for children to wear a sachet of herbs or perfume around their neck so at to protect against evil ( Travel China Guide)


Why Are the Boats Carved as Dragons?

Dragons are one of the most auspicious and common symbols in Chinese iconography and folklore. It is believed that every river was guarded by its own dragon spirit, who would not only affect the weather and tides, but could take the shape of several different animals, was exceptionally wise, and could bless those in his good graces ( Primary Source). Moreover, the dragon would battle with humans if he became agitated from the incessant gong and drum-beating at the festival, and would produce rainfall that ensured a plentiful harvest for celebrants ( China Now)



Where Can I Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in Pittsburgh?

Every year, the Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival holds a dragon boat races in mid to late September. They also feature great food, live dancing and musical performances, arts and crafts, stalls of Asian clothing, jewelry and fans, and give guests the opportunity to try rowing in one of the dragon boats. Their 2013 date has yet to be announced, but check out their website for pictures and even more information.


Need a Fall Internship? Silk Screen is Recruiting Fall Interns!


Are you a student or recent graduate from  CMU, Carlow, Pitt, Duquesne, or another university in Pittsburgh? Are you interested in working with non-profits, or perhaps have a long-rooted interest in Asian culture? Then apply for a Fall Internship with Silk Screen! Every Fall, Spring, and Summer, Silk Screen takes on a number of local students to take part in all aspects of running a successful non-profit, from marketing and fundraising to videography and photo editing.

All that you need to do is send us your resume and a cover letter at:

Silk Screen

424 South 27th Street, Suite 203

Pittsburgh, PA 15203.


Internships typically last for the length of a semester (14-16 weeks), and we ask that interns contribute 10-16 hours per week.

 Below we have listed each of the available positions and a brief description of duties. More can be found at:

Fundraising and Development Intern:

          Update Silk Screen Database daily

          Contribute to planning Silk Screen events, such as the Film Festival, the Gala, Cultural Days, etc.

          Distribute marketing materials to our partner locations, local libraries, school, universities, restaurants, and cinemas

          Research potential contacts in local newspapers and magazines

          Create reports and organize lists of potential donors, media and film contacts

          Flyer and poster distribution

          Festival Publicity

          Attend all Silk Screen events in order to spread our goodwill and to recruit new board members and volunteers

          Learn how to use the Sales Force online software database

          Assist in other office and administrative tasks


Film Program Intern:

          Help Silk Screen to rate, track, and coordinate bringing films to Pittsburgh for our annual Film Festival, Heaviest duties Oct.- March

          Keep a detailed spreadsheet of potential film choices

          Keep track of film format, in order to assist in scheduling (i.e. DigiBeta, 35mm)

          Assist in contacting filmmakers and distributors via phone, email, letters, etc, in order to schedule film delivery and screening

          Regularly meet with the film programming director and festival director about new updates, details, etc.

          Distribute chosen films to members of the Programming committee, and keep a list of who takes what films out of the office

          For film deemed interesting, find relevant press materials, movie stills, etc for the films chosen to be in the festival


Videography and Photo-Editing Intern

          Attend all Silk Screen events in order to spread out goodwill and to recruit new board members and volunteers

          Record all performances, activities, and speeches given at Silk Screen events, and take the names of performers, speakers, and guests featured in video and photographs

          Work with festival director to ensure music copyright safety

          Meet weekly with the web team, events coordinator, operations director, and festival director

          Accurately represent Silk Screen, community partners, visitors, and performers, and edit video for website using Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro, or similar programs

          Distribute materials to partner associations, schools, restaurants, libraries, and theaters

          General Office Support

Program Book Editorial Intern:

          Intern will collaborate with the program book manager for the book’s content, editing, layout and proofreading

          Research information regarding actors, directors, films

          Write small synospses of films, dance or musical performances

          Proofread all written content for spelling and information errors

          Familiarity with Excel and Word

          Share pictures, logos, and movie stills with newspapers, news channels, magazines, etc. as appropriate

          With Administrative approval, send informational emails to film companies, reporters, essays writers, journalists, etc.

          Assist in general administrative tasks

          Collect different media, such as CD’s, DVD’s, and movie stills, about performers, directors, actors, movies, and track the format of each piece of media so that we know in which formats we can use it (i.e. is it too large too to feature in the newsletter? Is it hard to format online?)

          Organize film reviews, programs page, and ads in a file format and then onto a disc

Marketing Intern:

          Maintain Silk Screen’s presence online – Facebook, Silk Screen’s Official Blog, Tagged, Flickr, Pinterest – and deliver daily updates

          Meet with the technology director and festival director with marketing updates and details

          Keep a spreading of all electronic posting sites, fee, deadlines, memberships, passwords, etc

          Periodically submit event information to local schools, college, partner association, websites, blog, posting, networks, and more

          Maintain updates for ticket and merchandise sales on the website

          Research news areas for electronic marketing in all areas related to: Films, Asia, Asian Americans, Asian Musicians, Asian Dancers, Asian Theater, Other arts, Culture & Diversity,  Awareness, Festivals, Pittsburgh & Pennsylvania + surrounding area (150 mile radius) “things to do”  websites

Music Director Assistant:

          Arrange projects  tasks with the music director for all rehersals, events, and recording sessions

          Attend all music recording, rehearsals, and review sessions

          Distribute all music materials to partner associations, libraries, local universities and schools, theaters and restaurants

          Organize musician shifts for rehearsal, performances, recordings and reviews

          Keep meticulous notes regarding project updates

          Meet with music director and musicians when necessary

          Attend all Silk Screen function to spread our goodwill and to recruit new board memebrs and volunteers

          General Office Support

General Office Intern

          Attend Silk Screen events as ambassador to the organization with goal of recruiting new volunteers and committee members

          Assist in all special events planning

          Maintain spreadsheet of active volunteers’ and committee members’ contact information

          Coordinate volunteer shifts for events, as well as tasks for each volunteer

          Recruit new volunteers via email, posters, telephone, e-blasts, websites, blogging, etc.

          Distribute posters and other advertisements to partner associations, schools, restaurants, theater

           Train volunteers on required tasks at events (selling tickets, balancing sales amounts, distributing surveys, awards ballots, programs, contact info collection)

          Regularly meet with events coordinator and festival coordinator to discuss updates

          General office support

Kuzuyu Will Keep You Warm and Soothe Sore Throats

Pittsburgh has been having quite the chilly streak for the past few days, and we need something to warm us up – so why not try kuzuyu, a warm Japanese beverage made from kuzu vine?        While this thick, syrupy beverage may not entice the eye, it will delight the palate and is often used as both as dessert and a remedy for sore throats and runny noses. Even better, this beverage takes just minutes to make ,and you should be able to find kuzu powder at your local specialty grocery store.


          1 tsbp. Sugar

          1 tsbp. kuzu powder

          1 cup hot water


1.      Boil the water in a tea kettle, and let cook while preparing the powder.

2.      Use a spoon to disintegrate any blocks in the kuzu powder. Kuzu powder is a starch, so whenever it comes in contact with moisture, it tends to thicken and stick together. It is easiest to mix it in if the powder is very fine.

3.      Pour the water in the kettle in a tall mug, and mix in kuzu powder and sugar.

4.      Stir until the beverage takes on a syrupy consistency.

5.      Enjoy!

For more on Kuzuyu and other Japanese cuisine, the following sites are a good start:

Japan Centre ( Where today’s recipe came from):

No Recipes:

Web Japan:

Why Is the Bat a Lucky Symbol in China?


Did you know that the bat has traditionally been a lucky anima in China? The word for “bat” and “good fortune” are pronounced the same (“fu”). Due to their inherent auspiciousness, bats  were often incorporated in tapestries, clothing, dishes, sculptures, paintings and even the imperial throne.

Similarly, it was common practice to have a “Five Bat symbol” in literature and art, because it symbolized the five earthly elements (air, earth, fire, metal, fire) and the five types of happiness (good luck, health, a long life, tranquility and wealth). It was also popular practice for  individuals to gaze at bats at nighttime while enjoying their evening tea with friends, and for children to chase bats around, trying to catch them.


For more information about the bat’s role in Chinese culture, check out the following sites:

Bat Conservation International:

The Chinese Bat:

Try Indonesian Carp Soup to Warm You Up on Chilly Days

It’s an exceptionally chilly and drizzly day in Pittsburgh, so we thought that we should share some recipes that will fill your with warm, happiness, and a delicious seafood soup from Indonesia.


-1 ½ lb. carp, cleaned and chopped into five sections

– 1/8 cup ear mushroom, soaked and chopped

– 2 ½ cups water

3 tbsp. red onions, sliced

– 2tbsp. lime juice

– 1 tsbp garlic, sliced

– 1 tsp, turmeric

– 1 tbsp. chlies

– 1 tsp. salt

– 1 bay leaf

– 1 stalk crushsed lemongrass

– 2 cups rice


1.      In a mixing bowl, let the carp slices marintate with the lemon juice for about 10 minutes, or until the juice has thoroughly seeped into the cap.

2.      In a large pan, add water, mushroom, fish and spices. Boil until the fish is tender and the spices have thoroughly dissolved throughout the mixture.

3.      In a separate bowl, boi rice until it is fluffy and tender.

4.      Serve carp soup with a side dish of rice.

5.      Enjoy!

If you want to read more about Indonesian carp soup or more about Indonesia culture in general, the following sites are a good start:


Indonesian ( where today’s recipe came from):

 National Portal of the Republic of Indonesia ( Portal Nasional Republik Indonesia):

CNN Travel:

Wonderful Indonesia: Indonesia’s Official Tourism Website: :