Chinese New Year is almost here! The biggest holiday of the Chinese calendar is known by many names, spring festival, lunar new year, 春节 (chun jie) or “when we blow up the city with fireworks.” Even though both of us have time off of work, Phil and I are staying in Chengdu this new year hoping to witness some of the festivities. With our stay-at-home-cation we hope to keep you abreast in a five part series this week about what goes on in China during this special time of the year.
We cut to the chase today with, of course, food! As with any celebration in most parts of the world, food takes a special place in the Chinese New Year festivities. What’s more sharing meals with family, friends and colleagues is necessary, which means if your living in China right now, your social calendar is probably packed with meal after meal with different circles of acquaintances and friends.
For the spring festival, which is this coming Thursday, food is highly symbolic of what is to come in the new year. What you eat will help in determining your good fortune, for example, noodles represent longevity, fish represents success, whole steamed chicken represents completeness and mandarin oranges represent gold. Round fruit is especially popular during this time as it represents the moon, the star of this holiday.
One of my favorite things to do around Chinese New Year is to make and consume dumplings. Dumplings or jiaozi, represents gold nuggets that were used in ancient China and are consumed during new year to represent future wealth. They’re also a fun meal to make as you have to work a bit for them before you eat them.
Last night Phil and I, having spent the day exploring Chengdu, decided we would bring on the wealth a little early and have dumplings for dinner. We stopped at the massive yulin market and picked up jiucai (spelling?), a grassy vegetable that has some connection to garlic, cabbage and ground pork (which the stall owner pre mixed with ginger and garlic), and some jiaozi wrappers and went home to go to town.
One great thing about dumplings is there’s really no rules as to how they are to be prepared. We washed and cut all of our ingredients and then began stuffing them. Phil’s dumplings were a little more creative than mine, but in the end they all taste the same.
We opted for boiling our dumplings (as believe it or not, we’re still dieting) and adopted Fuschia Dunlop’s method for cooking them which seems to be the simplest, foolproof way for ensuring the meat is all the way cooked:
Boil water. Stir water. Put dumplings in. Stir again so they don’t stick. When water boils again pour a coffee cup of cold water into the pot. When the water boils again, take them out.
Simple enough? Once the dumplings were cooked we dipped them into a mixture of sriacha, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Delicious for our both our appetite and our future fortunes, but not so much for the caloric intake, I think dumpling night will only happen once in this festive week.
Tonight Phil’s company is having their banquet so we’ll see what other good things we can rack up before Thursday. Stay tuned for more on the New Year this week!