It’s time to start preparing for the new year! If you want to celebrate Year of the Goat in (north Chinese) style, you’ll need to eat lots of jiaozi (also known as dumplings). You can of course order at your local Chinese (and don’t forget to wish them Xin nian kuai le!), pick up a bag from the frozen section, but why not make a project out of it and eat the best steaming hot dumplings you have ever tried? Chinese New Years Eve is on February 18. Gongxi Facai!
Jiaozi is a traditional festival dish, loved because the whole family come together and work as a team to make them. Some will prepare the skins, while others fill them with a variety of fillings. The experts will make sure they close properly and doesn’t spill in the boiling water. In the background a TV will be showing a national New Year Gala Show and the kids will wear new, red clothing. The table will be filled with plates, bowls, candy and maybe a pomegranate. The many seeds symbolize many, many babies, something every Chinese family wish for.
So why jiaozi on New Years Eve, other than the communal work effort needed? Jiao is the Chinese name of the period that goes from 11pm to 1am. Simple as that! And of course it helps that both name and shape are like old, Chinese money = good for your economic future!
Unlike other holiday dishes eaten only on certain days, jiaozi can, and should, be eaten all year round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alone, or as one of many dishes. Homemade, or bought on the streets, straight from the steamers and pans. Or at one of the many jiaozi restaurants, where the whole menu is just the fillings. After having tried a lot of different version, like deer and donkey, I still prefer pork. What will be your favorite?
Here’s how you make them yourself:
Start with 3 cups all-purpose flour, mix in 1/4 teaspoon salt and add as much water you need to make a firm dough, not too wet. It requires a lot of kneading to get it smooth, but it will be worth it. I don’t think it is considered cheating if you buy ready-made wrappings in any of the Asian stores.
Let the dough rest while you make the filling. Basically you can use whatever ingredients you like. Most common is probably pork and cilantro (or maybe it’s just my favorite, so I order this always), but you can use any type of minced meat, with finely chopped vegetables. Add shredded ginger, garlic, spring onion, a little sesame oil, Chinese vinegar and salt and mix together. It should be a little bit slimy. Or just use vegetables, like spinach and scrambled egg. Divide the dough ball into 60 pieces that you shape and flatten to circles about 3-inches in diameter. Put a small tbsp of filling on each, fold and use water to glue the edges together, and pinch. No, they will not look as pretty as the one you buy, but will taste a lot better! There should be plenty of videos on YouTube showing you how to do this.
Boil a large pot of water and add half of the dumplings, make sure they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Wait until it boils again and add another half cup cold water. Boil again. Third time they boil, they are ready. Drain and eat!
Dip them in a mix of soy sauce and Chinese vinegar, add a drop of sesame oil and chili if you like. The first to drop the slippery jiaozi into the bowl of dipping sauce so that it splashes everywhere, must do the dishes afterwards.
Leftovers can be fried in a pan, that tastes yummy too!
Let me know how it goes! Enjoy!