We're feeling the energy and excitement, though the Chinese new year doesn't begin until Feb. 10. Many restaurants will add special decorations and menus, and Chinese associations are planning banquets during the 15-day celebration.
This year's new year symbol, the snake, is said to bring introspection, charisma, transformation which will be a nice change after the intensity of Year of the Dragon. Right now, we're feeling introspective about dumplings a traditional Chinese new year food.
Serving foods symbolic of luck, wealth, abundance and longevity is customary. Dumplings are called jiao zi, a term associated with money. And since dumplings are shaped like ancient silver and gold ingots, voila.
As important as their history is their significance for family.
"It has an important meaning for Chinese new year as the family gets together to reunite," said Shenlin Chen, executive director of the Association of Chinese Americans, the Detroit chapter of the national OCA, an organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans.
"Making dumplings is a family event and symbolizes a reunion and a sharing of food," Chen said.
Once you get the hang of rolling the dough and shaping the dumplings, the rest is easy.
This step-by-step guide is adapted from Fine Cooking magazine and other sources.
You'll need a skinny rolling pin with no handles. It should be about ¾- to 1-inch in diameter and 6- to 10-inches long. We made one from a wooden dowel. Just cut it to length, sand the edges, clean it off and wipe it with mineral oil.
STEP 1: With the rolling pin in one hand and holding a piece of dough in the other, roll out the dough into a 3-inch circle. Roll from the edges toward the center, turning the dough circle as you complete a roll. This creates a round with a thicker center to hold the filling.
STEP 2: Spoon a heaping teaspoon or more of filling in the center of a dough circle.
STEP 3: Fold the dough in half over the filling, pinching it together in the center.
STEP 4: Seal remaining edges by pinching along the curved edges. Or pleat one side edge, working it toward the center on both sides to create a dumpling with a rounded bottom. Shaped this way, the dumplings sit upright in the pan and form a flat surface for browning.
Soy dipping sauce
Makes about ¼ cup
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil or hot chili oil
1 green onion, washed, thinly sliced
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar until sugar dissolves. Stir in the oil and green onion.
This recipe, adapted from the February 2010 issue of Fine Cooking magazine, is from the Detroit Free Press.
Per teaspoon: 5 calories; 0 grams protein; 1 gram carbohydrates; 9 grams fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 330 milligrams sodium; 0 grams fiber.
1½ cups unbleached flour, plus more for rolling
½ cup cold water
Mound 1½ cups unbleached flour on a clean work surface and make a deep wide well in the center. Pour in ½ cup cold water. Stir with your fingers at first to mix the flour and water together; be careful not to break the side walls. Using your fingertips and a bench (flour) scraper, mix in more of the flour toward the center until a dough starts to form. Add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time, if dough does not come together.
Shape into a ball and, on a lightly floured surface, knead 5 minutes until firm, smooth and elastic. Divide dough in half and roll into two 6-inch logs. Sprinkle each log with flour, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. (You can refrigerate at this point, covered, up to 8 hours.)
Cut each log in half crosswise and then each half crosswise into thirds. Slice the thirds into three even pieces for a total of 36. Lightly toss the pieces in flour to coat evenly and then cover with a clean, slightly damp towel so they don't dry out.
This recipe is from the Detroit Free Press.
During lunar new year celebrations, it's customary, in China, to serve visiting family and friends food symbolic of luck, wealth, abundance and longevity
Makes 12 to 16 egg rolls or more, depending on how much filling is used per piece.
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 cups julienned Chinese barbecued pork
10 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1 large cabbage), blanched, squeezed dry in a dish towel
½ cup chopped green onions
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Optional ingredients from the list below
12 to 16 large (7-by-7-inch) egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten in a small bowl
Vegetable oil for frying
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ cup boiled shrimp, cut into dime-size pieces
½ cup soaked, squeezed and thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
½ cup julienned and well-drained bamboo shoots
¼ cup thinly sliced water chestnuts
½ cup bean sprouts
For the filling, heat the peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat until pourable, adding 1 tablespoon peanut oil if needed to get the proper consistency. Allow to cool slightly. Combine the pork, cabbage, onions, sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon and any of the optional extra ingredients in a very large bowl until thoroughly blended. Hands work best to do this. Pour cooled, but still liquid, peanut butter into the mixture; mix thoroughly.
Cut off 1 inch from each of the corners of the wrappers for easier rolling. Place stack in front of you with one corner pointing toward you. Place a handful (about ¼ cup) of filling near the bottom corner; roll corner over the filling, tightly rolling up to just over half way. Fold in side corners snugly; continue rolling until there are 2 inches of wrapper left. Brush some egg wash over the final corner; continue rolling over it to seal the egg roll.
When all egg rolls are rolled, heat oil or lard in a heavy pan or wok until it reaches 350 degrees. Fry egg rolls, in batches, until golden brown; drain in a paper towel-lined pan.
Eat while hot, dipped in duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce and/or hot mustard.
This recipe is adapted from the one Fanny Go has made for decades. The amounts have been reduced from her recipe, which serves a crowd. Look for barbecued pork in Chinese barbecue stores, or you can make it by marinating approximately 2-inch-wide sections of pork shoulder/butt in store-bought char sui sauce overnight and then roasting in a 350 degree oven on a rack over a pan lined with foil until done.
Per per egg roll, based on 16: 277 calories; 12 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fat (2 saturated); 25 milligrams cholesterol; 841 milligrams sodium; 2 grams fiber.
Pork and shrimp dumplings
Filling: 2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
12 ounces ground pork
½ pound peeled, deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped (optional)
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted Asian sesame oil
½ teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
Soy dipping sauce
In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with 2 teaspoons salt and set aside for 30 minutes to shed moisture. Wring out in a clean kitchen towel to extract as much liquid as possible.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the pork, shrimp, green onions, garlic, rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the cabbage and stir until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Prepare the dumpling dough as directed.
Spoon a heaping teaspoon or so of the filling onto a dough circle, fold it in half and pleat or seal edges.
For pot stickers, make your first pinch at the center of the curved edge and then pleat toward the center on both sides to create a rounded belly. This wider shape allows the dumplings to sit upright in the pan and form a flat surface for browning. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. As you work, arrange the filled dumplings in a single layer without touching (so they don't stick together) on large plates.
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working quickly and in batches if necessary (adding more oil for the second batch if needed), arrange the dumplings belly side down in concentric circles starting from the outer edge. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in about ½ cup water or enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of the dumplings. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until all of the water has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking just until the dumplings are dry and crisp on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Loosen the dumplings from the pan with a spatula. Invert the pan over a plate to flip the dumplings, browned side up, onto the plate.
This recipe, adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, February/March 2010 issue, is from the Detroit Free Press.
Per serving: 60 calories; 3 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fat (1 saturated); 15 milligrams cholesterol; 85 milligrams sodium; 0 grams fiber; 45 percent calories from fat.