CITY GUIDE >Dining Out
Duanwu jie dumplings, Starbucks-style
By Tang Zhihao ( (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-27 16:04

Duanwu jie dumplings, Starbucks-style

Ancient favorites like dragon boats and rice wraps will answer to new additions of customized coffee this year as the country commemorates its annual Dragon Boat Festival (duanwu jie) and remembers Chinese poet Qu Yuan on May 28.

According to legend, the festival, also known as Double Fifth because it is held on the fifth day of the fifth month, arose in honor of the popular ministerial scholar, who during the Warring States Period took his own life to protest the machinations of state.

It remains one of the highlights of the Chinese social calendar, with dragon boat racing a major draw for locals and tourists alike. Chinese will habitually daub themselves in perfume from a pouch tied around their waist in a bid to ward off evil spirits - again harking back to the Qu Yuan legend.

Zong zi, glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reeds or other leaves, are an essential part of the celebrations. Over the past 2,000 years of marking the occasion, a diverse range of ingredients have been experimented with and added - and some have stuck.

And, this year, the Chinese festival will take on a more modern twist as Starbucks jumps into the fray with its frappuccino-flavored zong zi. A spokesman for the company's China operations said the US coffee chain hopes to inaugurate a new tradition by giving traditional Chinese culture an international twist.

Under the banner Ice Star Rice Dumplings, the new variety of zong zi will be handmade. By packaging them as crystal-clear snacks, Starbucks is hoping to capture their customers' attention, with a focus on young girls, the spokesman added.

Starbucks officials have described the snack as tasty, nutritious and low in fat - but obviously, you won't know until you try for yourself.

Each Ice Star Rice Dumpling should include a good luck wish in the reed wrapping, positioning the treat as Starbucks' response to an old faux Chinese creation: the fortune cookie.

To appeal to Chinese tastes, Starbucks will introduce mango, coffee and red bean flavors to its rice dumpling menu.

First established in America in 1971, Starbucks later opened its first store in the Chinese mainland in 1999. It now has over 660 branches in the country.