Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, fifteen days of celebration in honor of the lunar New Year. In China, the Chinese New Year holiday is the most festive celebration of the year.
The holiday falls on a different date each year, depending on the cycle of the moon, and ushers in the upcoming spring season with celebrations including lots of food and fireworks, and maybe even a dancing lion. This year, 4710, honors the passing from the year of the rabbit to the year of the dragon. In Chinese culture, the dragon is one of the most legendary creatures and represents a particularly auspicious year with a highly coveted zodiac sign.
This joyful holiday is a fun one to celebrate with kids and help them learn about global cultural traditions. In my family we’ll be celebrating with a small Chinese feast. Chinese cuisine is one of our family’s favorites so we’ll be sure to include lots of the kids favorite treats such as egg rolls, dim sum, fried rice, lo mein noodles, and of course fortune cookies.
Cantonese dim sum consists of appetizer style dishes such as all manner of steamed and fried dumplings, spare ribs, shrimp toast, and sizzling rice cakes. In Chinese restaurants, these foods are pushed around on carts and diners select based upon what dishes appeal to them as the carts pass by. The term dim sum means “touch your heart,” but in my family it also seems to mean “fill the stomach.”
I don’t know what it is but my picky almost two year old will eat almost anything in dumpling form. If he could talk in sentences, I am sure he would say they are his favorite food! Steaming some frozen dumplings purchased from the Asian or specialty market is one of our favorite quick meals. But this time we are going to make them from scratch and pan fry them as potstickers, for a delicious crispy exterior.
Pork Dumplings are traditionally served on the first morning of the New Year and are said to bring good fortune. You can ring in the New Year, Chinese style, with dim sum such as pork dumplings that you and your kids make together. With two or more people helping to fill and fold the dumplings, it becomes a party and the work goes quickly. With both boys battling colds, wonton soup is also in order at our house this week. We’ll use the rest of the dumpling wrappers to make homemade chicken wonton soup.
Round out the Chinese feast with some delicious pan-fried noodles. If you cannot find Chinese noodles, you can also substitute linguine pasta. Kids generally enjoy noodles of all shapes and sizes and lo mein noodles resembles another kid favorite, spaghetti, Noodles are also a traditional New Years food; their length symbolizes longevity and good health.
To end the Chinese New Year’s celebration, there is no shortage of sweet dishes. One of the most traditional Chinese New Years treats are Jau Gok, a golden fried puff of sweet dough encasing a filling of ground peanut, sesame, and coconut. Another traditional dessert is Nian Gao, a steamed rice flour and red date cake. Or end your feast simply with tangerine or mandarin orange sections. They are said to resemble gold coins to help attract wealth in the New Year. Happy Year of the Dragon!
Chinese Pork Dumplings with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce Recipe
Serves/Makes: 30 pcs
Ready in: 30-60 minutes
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup Chinese Napa cabbage, very finely chopped
30 round dumpling wrappers or wonton skins
***For dipping sauce***
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
In a small bowl, whisk together dipping sauce ingredients and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the pork, scallions, garlic, egg white, sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster salt, salt and pepper and mix well. Then add cabbage, and mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined.
Working with one wrapper at a time, put one tablespoon of pork filling onto a wrapper, moisten edges of wrapper with water, then fold wrapper in half into the traditional half moon shape. Pinch the center together, then stand dumpling up on its base and plate each side of the half moon twice, halfway between the outer edge and the center. Transfer each dumpling to baking sheet; cover with a towel. (Dumplings may be made in advance and frozen for up to three months.)
To steam: Bring a 5 quart pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, boil dumplings until filling is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a platter and serve with dipping sauce.
To pan fry: Heat about 1 tablespoon cooking oil in large nonstick skillet. Add as many dumplings as can fit in a single layer. Pour about 1/2 cup cold water over the dumplings; cover skillet and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, without turning or stirring, until water has evaporated and dumplings are golden and crisp on the bottom. Continue in batches until dumplings are cooked and serve with dipping sauce.