KFC knows how to jump on a bandwagon. In China, the American fast food chain has been serving up zongzi—a traditional, beloved Chinese rice dumpling.
This time of year, during the Dragon Boat Festival, millions of these little rice parcels are sold across Asia. In a Shanghainese KFC outlet, we found their delightful meaty version, which looked surprisingly good.
The dumplings are filled with glutinous rice, with a core of salted egg yolk, and marinated pork belly, wrapped neatly in a bamboo leaf package.
But at around half the size, and twice the price of a regular zongzi you can find on the streets, you might be better off picking one up elsewhere.
A single KFC zongzi costs RMB 9 (US$1.41), compared with RMB 5 (US$0.78) for the brandless variety at the diner round the corner.
“It tastes pretty good, but it’s rather small,” lamented a worker at the KFC outlet. “I might need to eat 10 of them to keep myself going for a day,” she said.
Still, KFC seems to have hit a sweet spot with its zongzi. Three of its outlets in Shanghai we contacted were sold out, a week ahead of the festivities.
It’s not the first time American fast food chains have ventured into local food in China. For years, big names like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC have been serving traditional Chinese breakfast items, such as rice balls, rice porridge, deep-fried dough sticks, and soy milk—all sitting alongside their Frappucinos and burgers on the menu board.