Happy Chinese New Year!
I am lucky to have friends that are not only patient with my pestering and begging, but occasionally even indulge me. And this time I hit the jackpot: homemade dumplings! Yes, I know you are combatting some serious jealousy, but I do have some good news: the recipe itself isn’t hard. As for the beautiful folding technique… there, you might just want to give up hope. Even after two dozen attempts, my dumplings were definitely clumsy misshapen things, though they remained first rate in taste.
Dumplings are a traditional food made on Chinese New Year, which fell on January 28th of this year. Dumplings are roughly shaped like an ancient Chinese coin called a Sycee. A Sycee is an ancient Chinese ingot (piece of precious metal) currency, and therefore the similarly shaped dumplings have become a symbol of prosperity and wealth in the coming year.
Step One: Have a Snack
Arielle, a native of Singapore, led the way to Kopitiam Traditional Malaysian Coffee House (51B Canal Street, New York NY 10002) for a bite before starting Operation Dumpling. Here I was introduced to kaya butter toast and teh tarik, a popular snack in Singapore and Malaysia…. and maybe my new favorite thing.
Kaya butter toast is toasted white bread spread with butter and magical kaya jam. Kaya jam, a glorious chartreuse color, is a sweet spread made from coconut milk, eggs, pandan leaf, and sugar.
Teh tarik (pulled tea) is black tea and condensed milk poured back and forth repeatedly between two cups. This not only mixes it thoroughly, but gives it a thick frothy top and cools it to a perfect drinking temperature.
Step Two: Hunt & Gather
Step 3: Food Oragami
Instead of being served by the piece as they are in the United States (i.e. 6 dumpling appetizer), dumplings are sold by the pound in Asia. They are not served or thought of as a first course/starter in Asia, but as the meal. That said, when making your own dumplings, estimate 20-30 per person for large appetites and 10-15 for lighter ones.
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 tablespoon fermented rice cooking wine (Shaoxing)
- 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
- 1 inch knob ginger, finely minced
- 1/2 medium napa cabbage, finely minced
- 6 shitake mushrooms, finely minced
- 6 scallions, finely minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt, to taste
- 1 package dumpling skins (about 42)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- chili oil, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- Squeeze the cabbage with your hands to get as much water out as possible.
- Mix together the ground cabbage, pork, rice wine, soy sauce, Chinese five spice, ginger, mushrooms, scallions, and salt.
- Drizzle in the olive oil a little at a time while mixing until the filling is shiny looking and holds together.
- Fill the dumplings, being sure to seal every seam well (use water to wet the folds to help stick the dough together). Be ambitious and try folding the traditional pleats, or save yourself aggravation and simply fold and seal similar to ravioli. Place on a plate dusted with flour to keep the dumplings from sticking to the plate or to one another.
- Boil a large pot of water. Gently place dumplings in a single layer in the pot (boil in batches if necessary). When the water returns to a boil, pour in a cup or so of cold water. Repeat once more (wait for the rolling boil, add another cup of cool water) and after the third boil, remove the dumplings. The dumplings should be floating by this point.
- Mix dipping sauce ingredients and serve with the hot dumplings!
❤️️ The warmest thanks to Arielle and Brenda for their friendship and hospitality. ❤️️
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