Dragon Boat Festival Food

On every fifth day of the fifth month in Chinese lunar calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival is celebrated in various ways, and the Dragon Boat Festival foods are always an indispensable part. Apart from Zongzi, what do Chinese eat on the Dragon Boat Festival?


Zongzi is the most popular Dragon Boat Festival food. It is a kind of sticky rice dumplings with different fillings wrapped by bamboo or reed leaves. Why do we eat Zongzi on the Dragon Boat Festival? The custom was originated from 340 AD, when the patriotic poet, Qu Yuan gave his life for his country by drowning himself in a river. To protect his body from being eaten by fish, people threw Zongzi into the river to feed the water creatures. Since then, Zongzi becomes a typical food for Dragon Boat Festival, which has been passed by for thousands of years.

Zongzi - Traditional Food of Dragon Boat Festival
Zongzi- most popular Duanwu Festival food
Cold Eel Slices
Cold Eel Slices

Ricefield Eel

Eel is another delicacy that people enjoy much as the Dragon Boat Festival Chinese food. Especially the eel in the rice field, is most tender and nutritive at that time. For people in southern China, eel is as important as Zongzi on Dragon Boat Festival. Eel is usually stewed with toufu and mushrooms, and the soup tastes tender and sweet. Braising with garlic is also another popular way to cook eel.


Dagao is a kind of cake made of mugwort and boiled sticky rice. Thump the boiled rice repeatedly for a long time and make it become paste. Dip it in sugar or honey, it becomes the most popular local food, which is glutinous and chewy. Now, in Yanbian area of Jilin Province in northeast China, people get used to have Dagao as the Dragon Boat Festival food.

Tea Eggs

In Jiangxi Province, boiling chicken eggs with tea is an old tradition. Some areas will also use duck or goose eggs, and after fully cooked, the eggs will be painted in red on the shell and then put into a net bag. It is believed that hanging the eggs on children's necks would help to defuse the bad luck and misfortune.

Garlic Eggs

In Henan and Zhejiang Provinces, boiled garlic eggs would be people's breakfast on the festival day, for the eggs boiled with garlic are regarded as alexipharmic to dispel away poisonous insects.


Jiandu is a kind of fried glutinous ball made of wheat or sticky rice flour, with sesame on the surface. According to the folklore, the raining season before the Dragon Boat Festival was caused by the holes in the Heaven, and Jiandui can fill up these holes. Therefore, people eat the glutinous balls to stop the rain. In Fujian Province in southeast China, the celebration of eating Jiandui is widely kept.



In Wenzhou area along China's east coast, people will eat thin pancakes as the Duanwu Festival food. When the soft and thin pancakes are finished, roll them with inside fillings like Chinese chives, diced fry-eggs, mushrooms and meat. And then eat the wrapped bundles, which enable people to taste different flavors just in one bite.

Realgar Wine

Realgar wine is also a popular Dragon Boat Festival food kept for generations, and kids’ cheek and forehead will also be rubbed with the wine. It is believed that the wine can dispel sickness, poisonous stuff and evil spirits. Now the realgar wine is not much liked by people, as there is tinny toxicant in it after being heated.

- Last updated on Jun. 21, 2023 by Catherine He -
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