Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

I don’t need an excuse to make Chinese food at home, but Chinese New Year is a fun excuse to have. I love Chinese food. All the different seasonings like soy sauce, chilies, ginger, and dark sesame oil, create a rich and flavorful meal. Additionally, some meals like stir fries are quick and easy to prepare. As a cook, it is one of my aspirations to learn how to make a variety of Chinese foods. I have an insatiable curiosity about all things food related so it is hard to resist the temptation to write a post about this special occasion. As I learn about different foods and cultures, I want to share my findings in hopes to encourage you to expand your food repertoire. Also, in the process of sharing, I might learn a thing or two from one of you.

With such a rich and important Chinese American history in the US, learning about the different traditions is one way to respect our differences and common values. Traditions. Good Health. Long life. Success. Prosperity. Auspiciousness. Family. Food.

A list of some dishes served for Chinese New Year and their meaning

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Spring Rolls symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a gold bar.

Dumplings, because of their shape symbolize family reunion and wealth. The crescent shape is like the ancient Chinese coins called silver ingots.

Longevity Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. Never cut the noodles, it is ok to slurp these babies up.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Whole fish symbolizes an increase in wealth, or surplus, “May you always have more than you need.” The word for fish in Chinese, “Yú”, sounds like the word for surplus. I linked my recipe for rainbow trout. If you make this recipe for Chinese New Year, do not cut off the heads and tails. Serve the fish intact. The “beginnings” and “ends” have significant meaning for Chinese New Year. Another recipe to try is whole steamed fish from David Tanis of the New York Times.

Whole Chicken, is usually boiled in a flavorful broth and cut up. Yet, I think it is ok to serve a whole roast chicken. A whole chicken is a symbol for family togetherness and happiness.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Vegetable dishes are also important because the spring is the time to plant new seeds. Bok Choy is a favorite or try my Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms. Even my Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise would work.

Fresh fruit like oranges are important, as the round shape and color represent wholeness and good fortune.

Glutenous Rice Cakes  Nian Gao, the round shape symbolizes family togetherness and the sweet taste means a rich and sweet life.

Celebrate Chinese New Year, the Lunar Year of the Dog

On New Year’s Day it is important to eat a vegetarian meal. You can make my fried rice recipe and omit the salmon and add sautéed broccoli and spinach.

Links for more information about Chinese New Year

This list of foods and their symbolism is short and generalized. My idea to write about the different foods and their symbolism is not meant to Americanize an important Chinese tradition, but to introduce the significance for each dish. You can find more information from these websites that I used as resources. The SpruceChinese New Year 2018, and China Highlights. Here is a link for information about the Lunar Year of the Dog.

The idea of preparing a traditional Chinese New Year feast is daunting, especially because I have no experience at it. In preparation for Chinese New Year the making and eating of specific foods is a huge part of the celebration. Also, having family around to celebrate with is central to the New Year celebration. This list is just a small selection of some foods served during Chinese New Year. Because preparing a Chinese New Year feast takes a lot of work, I plan to build up my menu a little at a time. Every year I hope to get closer to making a full feast of my own. Until then, baby steps. It is my hope that this sample whets your appetite for more and inspires you to cook Chinese food at home.

Gǒunián dàjí, “Lots of luck for this Dog year”

Xīnnián hǎo, “Happy New Year”

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

January 27th, 2017 is the eve of  Chinese New Year, the year of the Rooster. In honor of this auspicious day, I decided to learn how to make fried dumplings. Dumplings are traditionally served during Chinese New Year, and are a symbol for money and wealth. The legend is, the more dumplings one eats on Chinese New Year, the more wealth they will gain during the coming year (www.chinahighlights.com).

Pork Fried Dumplings

I love fried dumplings and have always wanted to learn how to make them. However, cooking a new dish with unfamiliar techniques and ingredients can be a risky endeavor. It is difficult to gauge how much time the recipe will take to cook, as well as determine how it will turn out. For the most part, I depend on my past experiences and resources to plow through any unknown territory. Fortunately, I have had more success than failures to keep my confidence up and my curiosity growing. Nonetheless, if I do mess up, the reason can usually be determined for a productive do-over.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

My first decision was to buy pre made wonton wrappers and not make everything from scratch. This might be considered cheating by some, but I felt it was a wise idea to pare down the whole procedure the first time around. It appears that making dumpling dough from scratch seems easy enough, but will require a third recipe, additional time, and a special rolling-pin.  Maybe next time I will tackle the dough.

The wrappers are available at most grocery stores in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Be advised, the wrappers come in different shapes and sizes.  You can use either the wonton wrappers shaped as squares or circles, depending on what your store has available.

Pork Fried Dumplings

After researching several recipes, I decided upon using Mark Bittman’s recipe from his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World as my base. Cooking with his recipes are like having a friend by your side, and teaching you along the way. The recipe for the pork filling is similar to most of the recipes I researched. However, his cooking technique proved to have the most consistent results, and created light and moist dumplings with a good sear.

The only downside to making homemade dumplings is, it is time consuming. The whole process is fairly simple, but will require your undivided attention. Overall, it took about 30-40 minutes to assemble 40 plus dumplings. This is because they need to be assembled one at a time in order for the dumplings to not dry out. Even though making dumplings is labor intensive, it can easily be turned into a fun activity to do with family or friends.

It has been my experience that children love to help with the dinner preparations. I believe the more children are involved in making the food they eat, the more likely they will be open-minded to eating different foods. Some children enjoy doing detailed tasks that is perfect for little hands and fingers. Pleating, pinching and forming dumplings is a great activity that children will enjoy.

If you do decide to make dumplings as a family activity, please be careful with children handling raw meat. You can designate mixing the filling as the adult job, or have the children wear latex gloves. Additionally, cooking the dumplings produces a lot of steam, so children should be kept away from the stove.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork Fried Dumplings

Each dumpling resembled a cute little boat. I was reminded of other images as well like an ancient Asian crown,  a Chinese Junk, and The Flying Nun. So, who knows where your imagination will take you while you fold and pleat the time away.

Pork Fried Dumplings

Food Ideas to pair with Fried Dumplings

Try any of these recipes

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Grilled  Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

As a light supper with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Fortunately, my first try at making fried dumplings was a huge success and a great family treat. By choosing to make fried dumplings instead of buy them, I turned an ordinary dinner into a festive occasion. These fried dumplings are light, flavorful, and festive. The interaction between dunking and eating created additional activity, which spurred more socializing and a fun atmosphere. I hope you have an occasion to make dumplings for you and your family and please let me know how they turn out.

What new food adventure have you tried recently? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Happy Chinese New Year. May good health and prosperity be your good fortune this year of The Rooster.

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Pork Fried Dumplings

Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings

Pork fried dumplings are fun to make and create a festive dining experience. Divide the assembly of the dumplings between you and loved ones, then the work becomes a shared activity all will enjoy. Serve with a soy dipping sauce flavored with toasted sesame oil, ginger, lime zest and sriracha. Fried dumplings are at their best when served immediately after they are made. The dumplings and dipping sauce can be easily adapted to suit your taste. You can substitute the ground pork with ground turkey, shrimp, ground lamb, or vegetables with tofu. I like a little heat and sweetness in my dipping sauce, but you can add or omit whatever you prefer. Thai chili paste can substitute for the sriracha, or omit it all together. Citrus is nice in the dipping sauce, like lime juice or zest. Sherry or rice wine, and honey are also good substitutes. Fried dumplings can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap until you are ready to make them. They can also be frozen. Place the assembled dumplings on a rimmed sheet pan and place in the freezer. When the dumplings are frozen all the way through, remove them from the sheet pan and place in a zip lock freezer bag and return them to the freezer. They should keep frozen for 6 months. This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for Wor Teep, Pot Stickers or Pan Fried Dumplings, in his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World. The cooking time is 10 minutes per batch of 10 to 12 dumplings. Allow more time if you are making more than one batch of fried dumplings.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

For the Dumplings

  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage or bok choy, or leeks
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup minced green onions scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves green germ removed, and minced
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 Tb rice wine or Sherry
  • 1 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tb toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • Peanut or neutral oil for frying
  • About 2 cups of chicken stock vegetable stock or water (divided)
  • Dipping sauce

For the Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest from ¼ of a lime
  • 2 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tb rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin or rice wine
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • A couple drops of sriracha sauce optional
  • 1 tsp Water

Instructions

Make the Dumplings

  1. Combine the ground pork, chopped cabbage, chopped green onions, minced ginger, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, sherry, toasted sesame oil, sugar, Kosher salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  2. Place the wonton wrappers on a plate then cover with a moist towel. Pick up one wonton wrapper and place it on your work surface with a pointed end towards you like a diamond shape. Moisten your finger tip and paint the top two edges of the wonton wrapper.
  3. Fill 1 teaspoon* with the pork filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton wrapper in half to make a triangle. Press down on the edges and with your fingers, smooth the wrapper over the mound of filling to push out any air that is loitering around the filling. You want to make sure there are no air pockets inside the dumpling.
  4. Pleat each dumpling by starting at one corner and fold over a small section to make a pleat. Press and seal. Slide your fingers up about a ¼ inch and pleat again. Continue to pleat the edges of the dumpling to have 3 pleats per side. The pleats will fold towards the center.
  5. Place the dumpling on a sheet pan and cover with a clean and moist kitchen towel. Repeat until you have used up all of the pork filling. About 40 dumplings.

Cook the Dumplings

  1. Place a 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium high. Lightly coat the pan with oil. Place the dumplings in the pan, pleated side up. Depending on the size of your pan you can fit 9-10 dumplings at a time. Cook the dumplings for 5 minutes, undisturbed. After 5 minutes add ½ cup chicken stock to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Cook covered for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes are up, take off the lid and cook the dumplings until the liquid is evaporated and the dumplings are nicely browned, about 3 – 4 minutes more.
  2. Using a thin spatula gently remove the dumplings from the skillet, being careful to not rip the dumplings as you remove them from the pan. The dumplings will stick a little, hence the name pot stickers.
  3. Put the dumplings on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
  4. Deglaze the pan with a ½ cup of water, scraping up any crusty bits. Dump out the water and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Repeat the cooking process until all the dumplings are cooked, making sure to clean the pan between each batch of dumplings.
  5. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed. Set aside on the counter until ready to serve. Serve in a small bowl for easy dipping. Makes a shy ¼ cup.

Recipe Notes

If you make dumplings with the round wrappers or from wrappers made at home, they will be larger and you will need to fill the dumplings with close to 2 teaspoons of filling. You will get 20 -24 dumplings depending on size of wrapper.

Nutrition Facts
Delightful Pork Fried Dumplings
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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