Dumplings are a classic celebratory food in China, and can be found at all Chinese festivals. At New Year they are the most important of foods. There are lots of varieties of Chinese dumplings. A popular kind, jiaozi, look like the silver or gold ingots used as currency during the Ming Dynasty, and so the dumplings are associated with Chinese New Year, as a time when good luck and prosperity is invited into the home. The dumplings are thought to bring good fortune when served too. Jiaozi can be filled with ground meat and/or vegetables. Their soft, moist white dough jackets are pressed at the edges, giving them a pretty shape, and they can be steamed, boiled or fried. We recommend digging out a good authentic recipe with a very detailed description online.
A few dumpling tips to get you started…
Try our halal ground lamb for a delicious dumpling mixture, mixed with Chinese cabbage.
The Chinese use cabbage of radish to celebrate prosperity. Ideally marinate the meat over night using light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, salt, ginger, sesame oil, egg and chopped scallion (scallions are like spring onions but have a milder flavour). Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan and drizzle it into the mixture, stirring to form a paste before marinating in the fridge. If you do use cabbage, be sure to chop it and marinate in salt for 15 minutes, before squeezing the extra liquid out. This way the water from the cabbage won’t make your dumplings watery. Don’t add the veg to the mixture until just before you wrap them in the dough.
Spring rolls are named after the Spring Festival, so this is an excellent time to eat them. Stir-fry our halal chicken breasts or diced breasts, cut into small pea-sized pieces for a couple of minutes with mushrooms in groundnut oil, seasoned with Chinese five-spice powder and soy. Remove the wok or frying pan and cool for ten minutes. Add the chicken and mushrooms to grated ginger, beansprouts, scallions and carrot, all uncooked, and season with salt and oyster sauce and white pepper. Use filo pastry or spring roll wrappers, laying them on top of each other, positioned so the corners point in different directions. You can get the kids to help out with brushing the corners of the wrappers with a beaten egg, before tucking in the edge and sealing with more egg yolk. You can then either bake the rolls for 20 minutes or fry them for a few minutes in batches until golden.
If you fancy an easier nod to Chinese cuisine, why not serve noodles with halal chicken in a delicious peanut sauce, with chili and sesame? Or cook a wilted spinach warm salad with raw ginger and throw in some water chestnuts for extra crunch.
Let us know if you have any Chinese cooking inspiration, and if you make any dumplings, let us know the results! Enjoy, and xīn nián hǎo! (That’s ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese)