Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

I remember as a little girl in Taiwan, I would try my hardest to stay awake until midnight on Chinese New Year Eve to welcome the first day of New Year. On New Year's Eve, my grandmother and aunts would make a feast including a whole chicken, a couple steamed fish (with heads and tails still attached), roast pork, and enough side dishes to feed a crowd of 50. People greeted each other with "kong xi fa cai". I would get red packets filled with money from relatives and family friends. My uncle took my cousins and I to nearby park and we would put on what we thought was the greatest firework show on earth.

Since I moved to the United States eight years ago, I miss the sounds of firecrackers, family gatherings, and of course, the feast. 

I can never have the culinary skills like my grandma, but I always try to cook up something special for the New Year. To celebrate the Year of Snake, I made dumpling (shui jiao or "water dumpling").

Dumplings are eaten year round, like one would have a burrito as meal once in a while. Having dumplings at mealtime brings prosperity and symbolizes family togetherness. The filling vary among regions, in Taiwan, ground pork is the most common ingredient. There are also vegetarian dumplings filled with cabbage, chives, and don fen (cellophane noodles). Dumplings are often boiled in water, these are called shui jiao or water dumpling. The common pot stickers in the U.S. are guo tei, which are pan fried (or sometimes deep fried, which is unheard of in Taiwan) dumplings. Soy sauce is the most common dipping sauce, and I like to add some chopped green onions and dash of sesame oil. 

On Sunday afternoon, I sent over an hour making just 60 dumplings. I was not feeling adventurous to make my own wrapper, and I was surprised to find them in Krogers.

Taiwanese Pork Dumplings
Makes 70 dumplings

2 pounds lean ground pork
4 dried Chinese mushrooms
3/2 cup finely diced cabbage
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
70 round wonton or dumpling wrappers (can be found in Asian grocery stores, or selected Krogers)

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, chopped

1. Place dried mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water for 20 minutes, or until soft. Dice mushrooms finely. Reserve water.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and add 1/2 cup of reserved mushroom water
3. Follow this video for instructions on how to make dumplings (skip to 2:30 Use remaining of the reserved mushroom water to seal dumplings. Dust all surface of dumplings with flou, place dumplings evenly spaced on a lightly flour pan. Dumplings freeze well, reserve some for cooking or place the pan in the freezer and remove from pan when dumplings are frozen.
4. Boil enough water to cover however many dumplings you are making. Add dumplings to boiling, bring water to boil again. Once boiling, add a cup of cold water, bring to boil again; repeat process three times. Remove dumplings with a slot spoon.
5. To make sauce, combine all ingredients.

Happy Year of the Snake!

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