Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Chinese New Year Food - Dumplings
To bring in great wealth and treasure

Shui Jiao - Water Dumpling
Yuan Bao - auspicious name for dumpling
Chinese New Year (CNY) is long over and I am still doing posting on CNY food. My apologies in the lateness of the festival posts.

In Chinese culture, prosperity is seen as a sign or factor that could invoke success and luck into their life. Chinese New Year, in this sense, serves as a period by means of celebration mode for the people to search for such luck and prosperity for the forthcoming year. Chinese is obssess with the idea of prosperity, of luck and of wealth. This is why you see many auspiciously named dishes during Chinese New Year. In fact, it's not only during Chinese New Year but you see auspicious Chinese food all year round for each festivity.

Most of the CNY festive food is rather hard to prepare for a student abroad with hardly any cooking skills. Other factors to be taken into account would be financial matters and whether if you have enough friends here to cook up a feast! Yes, people like me though I am no longer a student. The dumpling, jiao zi 餃子, is probably one of the simplest and probably the cheapest CNY festive food for a student.

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Yuan Bao Jiao Zi
Jiao zi is also known auspiciously as yuan bao because it takes the form of shoe-shaped ingots. Yuan bao 元寶 was actually Ancient Chinese currency made of either gold or silver. These days, yuan bao is commonly referred to the currency in the form of shoe shaped gold and silver ingot although coin-shaped yuan bao were also commonly used in ancient China.

I believe the tradition of eating dumplings during Chinese stems from the Northern part of China. I don't remember having dumplings for CNY in our Cantonese household.

You can grab packs of frozen dumplings from the Asian supermarkets here for about A$6-$8 a pack. Here in Australia, we are blessed with its multicultural community. We can buy ready-made dumpling wrappers/skins from the fridge section in supermarkets. Yes, even from Coles and Woolies! We could not even get ready-made dumpling wrappers in Brunei. Since it's so convenient here, I prefer to make my own dumpling fillings over the ready-made frozen dumplings.

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♥ Freshly made Dumplings
Here you can see I have made two different shapes of dumplings. The one of the left being the most common. The round cute one on the right looks a little like its Italian cousin, ravioli. I reckon the round cute one resembles yuan bao more than the usual shaped one.

If you want to go to the full length in search of prosperity, have some jin yuan bao (golden yuan bao) which goes by its common name, dan jiao (egg dumpling). These are simply dumplings with fillings wrapped in thin round egg sheets folded over.

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♥ Garlic and Soy Dip
The type of dumplings I have shown here are shui jiao, water dumpling which simply means that it's been cooked in water. There are also steamed dumpling (zheng jiao) and panfried dumpling (jian jiao).

Water dumplings are usually served with a soysauce based dip. To make a simple soy sauce dip, add some minced garlic, few drops of sesame oil and tiny bits of vinegar to soy sauce. The minced garlic will gives a little spiciness to the sauce. If you are after something spicier, by all means, add chopped chilies to it. You can also added julienned gingers. And even herbs if you are up to it. I do not have a recipe for the dip. Just adjust the taste to your liking. You might have to do a few trial and error.

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♥ Pork, Chives and mushroom filling
As with the fillings, we did the most common fillings: pork and chives, simply because chives was cheap at the market and coincidentally, chives (jiu cai 韭菜) is also an auspicious CNY food since the first word in chives: jiu, rhymes with the word long (jiu 久). It is believed that chives will bring long lasting prosperity, wealth, health etc. to you: chang chang jiu jiu 長長久久 (long and lasting).

Here's my "cincai" (estimated) recipe for basic pork and chives dumpling fillings:
♥ Pork and Chives dumpling fillings
300g minced pork
300g chives, chopped finely
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp worchester sauce* (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 yolk
a good sprinkle of pepper (I used black but white is better I heard)

Just throw everything in a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated nicely. After that, using your hand, grab the whole lot of the mix up just a little above the mixing bowl and then pound it back into the bowl. Repeat this several time until you get the mixture becomes sticky.

I have actually just thrown in all types of sauces found at home. The last time I made the fillings, I have thrown in some kecap manis, thai fish sauce, Japanese mirin. Just add in what you would normally add to your marinate. ;-)

So to end this post, I call upon the Chinese greeting:

zhao cai jin bao chi yuan bao
zhu ni cai yuan gun gun lai!

To bring in great wealth and treasure, have a yuan bao
Wishing you an great abundance year with treasure and wealth come rolling into your home continually!