Chinese New Year In Review

This past Monday, January 23rd, was New Year’s Day in much of the world, mainly East Asia. It marks the coming of the first New Moon after the Winter Solstice.

Traditionally, the family gets together to celebrate with music, dancing, fireworks and, of course, lots of food. A favorite at these celebrations are Jiaozi or Chinese dumplings. As many members of the family flock to the big cities for education and work, they all come home for this holiday. In the days leading up to New Year, the trains all over China become so packed with people they sometimes are literally hanging out of windows.

Dumplings are a favorite food all around the world, as we discussed in this post. And the Jiaozi are accompanied by a dipping sauce. We have recipes for various asian style sauces here.

While it’s not really too late for the New Year celebrations which can continue for up to two weeks, you can make these yourself. It’s fun and a great activity for friends and family to join you in the kitchen helping out. Making these dumplings works best in a cooperative effort, sort of like an assembly line.

For our celebration here in The Bachelor’s Kitchen there were just two of us. But we worked well together. And I must admit my friend Peihui, a medical student from China, ended up doing most of the work because he knew more about it than I did.

The first thing you have to do is make the dough. You can cheat and buy wonton wrappers, but making your own pasta is part of the fun. This is a very, very simple recipe which Peihui secured from his mother-in-law back home.

Jiaozi dough:

  • 3 cups all purpose wheat flour
  • up to 1-1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl then add a cup of water. Stir until a loose, sticky dough ball begins to form. Then use your hands to work the dough adding a little water at a time until you get a firm, smooth ball. This takes some muscle. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests you can make the filling. What you use is up to you, but traditional dumplings are made with ground pork and Napa cabbage or bok choy.

Jiaozi Filling:

  • 1 cup or 12 oz. ground pork
  • 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion, green and white parts
  • 2 cups finely chopped, minced or shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Blend all ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Stir in only one direction.
  2. To make the dumplings, divide the dough into three portions and roll on a flour covered counter into 1 inch thick ropes. Cut one rope into 1/4 inch rounds. Cover the remainder of the dough with a damp paper towel. Take one round and smash into a disc, then use a rolling pin to create a paper thin circle about three inches in diameter.
  3. Holding a circle in your palm, place about one scant tablespoon or heaping teaspoon in the center of the circle. Better to use too little than too much as the dumpling will fall apart if the meat mixture gets too close to the edge of the dough. Fold the circle into a half moon and pinch at the top. Starting from one end pinch the edges of the dough into pleats, working up to the top and then repeating on the other side. Lay out on wax or parchment paper. Cover finished dumplings with another damp towel to keep from drying out.
  4. Cooking can be boiling or steaming. Steaming in batches is preferred. Steam for about 10 minutes per batch. If desired, dumplings can be pan fried in a small amount of oil on one side to make pot stickers.
  5. Create a dipping sauce with equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. You can also add garlic and green onion if desired.
  6. Serve the dumplings hot.

That’s all there is to it. It’s a lot to do by yourself, but this should be a group effort. It’s a great party idea, especially if ¬†you have aprons to pass around to your guests. Serve with green tea.