Happy Chinese New Year! (新年快乐!)

Normally, my blog is for posting dessert recipes but since Chinese New Year is around the corner, I’ll make an exception.  Chinese New Year is full of symbolism and superstition; it is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year’s will set the tone for the rest of the year.  People do not sweep or dust their homes in fear they will sweep away good fortune.  Red clothing is worn to bring the wearer a bright future and children receive “hong bao” which are red envelopes with crisp, new dollar bills inside for good luck.  Certain foods are also eaten because their Chinese names are homophones for words like wealth or luck.  For example, the word for tangerines sounds like the word for “luck” in Chinese, so friends and families give them as gifts.  Also, nian gao (which means sticky rice cake), is eaten on New Year’s because it sounds like the phrase “year growing taller” supposedly giving the eater a better year than the last.  Many families realize these superstitions are merely that, but they continue to practice the traditions to so they can pass down Chinese heritage to their children.  One treasured tradition is dumpling making which is also a very symbolic food.  Dumplings are called “jiao zi” which was the old term for ancient Chinese money because the gold and silver pieces had a dumpling-like shape.  Essentially dumplings are symbolic for eating money and it is believed the person will have prosperity, luck, wealth (and hopefully a full stomach too).  To me, one of the most important aspects of Chinese New Year is the food.  Where there is food and families, bonds are strengthened and memories are created.  Many Chinese families treasure dumpling making on New Year’s because of these statures.  Usually one family member will roll the dough, and the rest will fill and pleat the dumplings; they will all talk and enjoy valuable family togetherness.  I find particularly special that each person has a certain dumpling “thumbprint”; in other words, at the dinner table one can usually tell who has made which dumpling as they are eating.  Chances are you may not celebrate Chinese New Year, but I encourage you to make these dumplings with your family or even try making nian gao (the recipe can be found here http://swirledandsprinkled.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/nian-gao%E7%B2%98%E7%B3%95/).  Also, check out more Chinese New Year dishes here: http://go.unl.edu/8ie.  Until then, I wish you all the happiest New Year, one with much luck, fortune, good health, and prosperity…may this year be brighter than your last. 新年快乐!(Happy New Year!)

Pork and Scallion Dumpling (makes about 12) 

For the dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup boiling water

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and boiling water. Using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough forms a shaggy ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth (about 8 minutes). Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. While the dough rests, make the filling.

For the filling:

1/2 lb. ground pork

1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine*

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee Brand)*

2 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar*

2 teaspoons soy sauce*

Pinch of white pepper powder*

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves

* See the bottom of this post for pictures of the ingredients.

1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Keep refrigerated until ready to fill the dumplings.

Roll out wrappers:

1. Roll dough into a 1 inch diameter log on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 1 inch pieces.

2. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a 4 inch diameter circle. Set aside and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Fill and pleat dumplings:

1. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.

2. Hold a wrapper in the palm of your hand. Place a heaping tablespoon filling in center of wrapper.

3. Fold wrapper in half without sealing the edges, open-side up, gently press down filling.

4. Using thumb and forefinger of left hand, begin pinching edges of wrapper together while pushing one edge into tiny pleats with thumb of right hand. Continue pleating and pinching across entire semicircle until wrapper is sealed (the unpleated side will naturally curve). Set dumpling on floured baking sheet pleated side up. Repeat.

Pan-Fry dumplings:

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large lidded nonstick skillet, bring heat 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil until hot. Add dumplins, pleated side up (don’t let them touch) and immediately pour cold water to pan to come half-way up the sides of the dumplings. Cover and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the bottoms are browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Make sure to check the bottoms of the dumplings after about 5 minutes and keep checking after 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter crisp side up.

Lucky dumpling sauce (serves 4)

4 tablespoons soy sauce*

1 tablespoon rice vinegar*

1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee Brand)*

1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (optional)*

1. Combine all ingredients and serve with dumplings. Add more chili-garlic sauce separately if you like more heat.

This is a long recipe, but it’s worth it. Enjoy!

One thought on “Happy Chinese New Year! (新年快乐!)

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