Update 2/8/16 CNY: I don’t eat meat as of now (been a pescetarian – eats fish – for maybe half a year now), but I’m keeping this blog post because it’s not about the meat, but it’s about the family togetherness. 🙂
February is full of festivities! And today is the Lunar New Year!
Dumplings are a must-have for Chinese households, and traditionally, they’re eaten at the last meal of the old year and the first meal of the new one.
The shape of the dumplings symbolize “togetherness,” and on Chinese New Year Eve, each family gather around in the kitchen and make dumplings. Whether it’s peeling garlic, chopping veggies, kneading dough for the wrappers, wrapping the dumplings, etc., everyone is doing something.
It’s a whole family affair.
I think cooking brings people together and making dumplings is definitely no exception.
Many households these days use those pre-made frozen wonton wrappers, but for us, everything is made from scratch. It just wouldn’t feel right without making our own wrappers. Plus, the taste alone is just worth doing. Store-bought dumpling wrappers, often thick and tough, can’t even compare to homemade, which are light and chewy.
As for filling, my favorite is tomato and egg dumplings, which is a vegetarian dumpling that only has tomato and eggs and some herbs. The tomatoes make the dumplings super juicy, but they aren’t in season for another few months. 😦
I do, however, also love meat dumplings, which is what we made this year. We first made a large batch of chicken + chives dumplings with Chinese chives, juicy napa cabbage, and ground chicken thighs. This is my 2nd favorite after tomato and eggs. And, of course, because it’s the year of the goat, we also had lamb dumplings using ground lamb + spring onions + carrots + cabbage. Whether that’s appropriate or not for the sheep year, I don’t know, but damn lamb meat is delicious. Both kinds of dumplings were so juicy and savory!
Because dumplings are soft and slightly chewy, I like to serve them with cold crunchy side dishes like cucumber or lotus salads. It adds a nice contrast and refreshes the palate.
Speaking of palate refreshing, it’s also common in Northern China to eat raw or pickled garlic whilst eating dumplings! It’s strange and gets some getting used to, but once you start, you’re hooked. It goes like this: dip dumpling in black vinegar, bite dumpling, bite garlic, repeat. The combination of the flavor-packed dumplings and the spicy garlic goes hand-in-hand.
As for me, I am obsessed with garlic. I don’t recall the last time I went a day without some form of garlic in my food, whether it be in stir-fries or roasted whole…
But raw garlic isn’t just for flavor; it is so many health benefits! In China, people also see garlic to as a detoxifying herb.
Raw garlic is packed with antioxidants, so whenever you get a cold, sore throat, or even a cold sore, some raw garlic would do the trick. Just make sure you have some dumplings to go with it, and that you won’t be kissing anyone afterwards, in case of the garlic breath. Unless, of course, that person also has garlic breath. 😉
The best kinds of dumplings are juicy and flavorful – like a pocket of deliciousness in one (or two) bites.
Happy Chinese New Year!
If your zodiac animal is a goat, this is your lucky year!