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Making dumplings for Spring Festival

By Morag Hobbs, Liu Ning, He Zhuoyan (People's Daily Online)    16:20, February 01, 2019

No Spring Festival feast in China, especially in the north, is complete without a steaming plate of homemade dumplings, little pockets of juicy flavour packed with a range of ingredients including pork, chives, tofu, carrot, mutton, cabbage and just about anything else you can think of.

Chinese Lunar New Year, otherwise known as Spring Festival, falls on the 5th February this year, and will see people travel from all over the country to enjoy a reunion dinner with their families. This dinner is the most important celebration on the Chinese calendar, taking place on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

But why do these fiddly little snacks continue to take pride of place on the reunion dinner table in China?

“It's a tradition for Chinese people that everyone gathers together for a meal, including dumplings, on Spring Festival no matter how far away they are from home. The dumplings contain a sort of affection when everyone gathers together for Spring Festival,” explained Wu Cuixia, as she showed me how to make the perfect dumplings just in time for the Lunar New Year.

There are a variety of meaty fillings that can be stuffed into dumplings, the most common being pork along with a choice of vegetables. For the vegetarians among us, it’s common to add egg or tofu to an array of tasty, crunchy fillings such as carrot, chives or cabbage.

“We usually put a coin in one of the dumplings, legend has it whoever gets that will become lucky and wealthy in the coming year,” explains Wu as she expertly wraps a coin into one of the fat little dumplings. Although making dumplings may look easy, there’s a definite trick to it, as Wu notes, “You need to pinch the side of the dumpling to wrap up the fillings to make it chewy, and then you squeeze it into a shape of an ancient Chinese coin to convey a feeling of jubilance.”

As Wu shows me, traditionally, dumplings are made to look like gold ingots, which were used as currency in ancient China. Dumplings are therefore meant to signify wealth, and it’s said that the more you eat over the Spring Festival, the richer you will become in the coming year.

There is also a certain level of wordplay, which crops up in many of the dishes on the New Year’s dinner table. The word dumplings (饺子)sounds like the Chinese word 交子 (jiaozi), which means the exchange between the old and new year.

For most people, however, homemade dumplings are simply nostalgic little reminders of past Spring Festivals. “They are a taste of family, or a taste of being home. It infuses a particular love for the family in the hope of a safe and sound year for all family members in the next year,” said Wu.

Why don’t you try and make our dumplings at home this Spring Festival?

To make 45 dumplings with the same fillings as shown in our video:

First, you will want to make the dough.

Ingredients:

500 grams (4 cups / 18 ounces) all-purpose flour

265 millilitre (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 9 ounces) water

Mix the flour and water in a bowl with a pair of chopsticks. When the flour starts sticking, dust your hands with flour and knead the contents into a ball.

When the dough has formed, dust your working surface with flour and dust your hands again. Transfer the mixture over and continue to knead it until its surface becomes smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Let it rest. After about 4-5 hours, kneed it again. You’re ready to go!

How to roll the perfect dumpling wrapper?

Take the dough and roll it out into a long sausage shape. Using a knife, cut it into similar sized pieces, roughly about 2 inches in length. Press each one into a rough circle.

The trick is never to let go of the wrapper while your rolling. It feels counter-intuitive, but hold onto the top of the wrapper, use the rolling pin in an upward motion towards the center. Move the dough around and keep rolling until you have a thin, circular wrapper.

Alternatively, you can pick pre-rolled wrappers from your local shop or Chinese supermarket.

For the filling:

450 grams carrots, grated

3 large eggs, beaten

a handful of spring onions

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cloves garlic

2 slices ginger

Scramble the eggs over a low heat until they are pretty solid, and then mix in with the grated carrot, spring onions, sesame oil and soy sauce. Very finely chop the ginger and garlic and mix in. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, add a healthy portion of filling into the center of a wrapper and pinch together at the top, crimping up the sides. Mrs. Wu made this look easy, and it’s pretty obvious which are hers!

Are you making dumplings this Spring Festival? Share your pictures with us; I'm sure you did a better job than me! 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Liang Jun)

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