As my family and I are preparing to welcome Chinese/Lunar New Year with a variety of symbolic dishes to start the New Year Eve feast, not only are we stuffing coins and good luck money into Red Envelopes, which are to be handed out to the children during the month Chinese New Year; we are also gathering the bright, fun, golden, decorations and visiting markets for some special ingredients for a few dinners that we're about to prepare in the coming weeks.
Each year, we try to come up with new ways to have a memorable gathering with family and friends while holding onto the traditions that we've already created together. It's a labor of love that we always have a great time planning-each year brings new fortune and symbolizes something unique, so each celebration is different.
With the addition of young children to my family, we face a new challenge: which ingredients and types of food will make our Jiaozi party even better than the last? We'll be making everything from vegetable dumplings with a mixture of bok choy, sesame oil, and black fungus to juicy minced pork dumplings with spicy pickled Shanghai radish that crunches when you bite into the hot, steaming pockets. Our shrimp dumplings with water chestnuts and spring onions are sure to provoke lots of laughter in the years to come, as "shrimp" is pronounced har in Chinese.
In most Chinese homes, dumplings (or jiaozi in Mandarin) are a traditional must-eat food on New Year's Eve; families wrap them up and eat them as the clock strikes midnight to celebrate the dawn of a new year in a delicious way. Dumplings are a common symbol of longevity and wealth - their shape even resembles ancient gold ingots, as well as other coins that are said to bring prosperity. Many dishes served at the celebration, from fresh fish to different types of noodles, are considered symbols of good fortune, harmony, and longevity during this festive month of the year.
This year, our family will celebrate the Year of the Rooster, which begins on Saturday, January 28th, and we're excited to welcome its characteristics of loyalty, hard work, and confidence. Since the Chinese New Year festivities usually last for two weeks or more, there's a lot to celebrate. We'll be spending our New Year with the people (and food!) we love, and we wish you and your family many joyful festivities and gatherings in the year to come.
PS: Red Envelopes are given to the children during the month Chinese New Year. The red color of the envelope stands for good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits.
RECIPE VEGETABLE DIM SUM (translation: a bit of this, a bit of that)
2 cups of minced Asian chives or spinach, chopped
2 cups of minced carrots
1 cup water chestnuts or jicama, minced
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup dried shiitake and ear mushrooms, soaked and discard stems
1 cup julienned and diced brown tofu
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 T. ginger
3 T. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/8 cup vegetable oil
Approximately 2 packages of wonton wrappers
Chop all the ingredients finely.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan.
Add in garlic, ginger and onion and cook over a medium flame for about 2 minutes. Stir the cabbage til it wilts in the rest of the ingredients, except eggs. Continue stir frying until all the vegetables are mixed well and add in the seasonings and adjust the taste accordingly.
Take a wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand and brush the egg mixture on the edge of the wrapper. Put a tablespoon of mixture in the center of the pastry. To enclose, gather the pastry shell by pinching. Put in an oiled steamer and cook for 10 minutes.
These may be served at once or pan fry the bottom of the already steamed dim sum and wrap airtight the rest to freeze. Reheat frozen dim sum by steaming for 8 - 10 minutes.
Makes approximately 100 pieces.
*At Saffron59, we make variations of these dumplings using crab, shrimp, chicken or pork with seasonal vegetables. **After you cooked the stuffing of the dumplings it can go into food processor "chop" and let it drained overnight. If you use the Shanghai wrapper, the white ones it tastes better to sear the bottom and then add some water to the pan and cover it to cook the inside for 4 minutes at low heat. Or simply drop dumplings in boiling water till float.