In China, the new year is celebrated as a festival of spring, despite the fact that it occurs midwinter. The festival begins on the first day of the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar (Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice) and ends on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival. Much like other seasonal holidays, the weeks-long festivities are often focused on food – as gifts as well as at feasts that bring family and friends together around the table. Specific days are often linked to foods that have meaning – for example, on the Fifth Day, people traditionally enjoy jiǎo zi (饺子), or dumplings on the morning of Po Wu, the birthday of the Chinese god of wealth.
Dumplings are as favored a Chinese delicacy as any, whether you’re traditional or accustomed to the Western style of Chinese cuisine. We often make large batches of pork dumplings to stash in the freezer and drop into simmering soup to cook and flavor the broth – the ultimate in late-night fast food – and the same dumplings make wonderful potstickers. We’ll be making some tonight, to help ring in the Chinese new year.
Pork Dumplings or Potstickers
1 lb. lean ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped mango (optional)
2 green onions, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 pkg. wonton or gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen
chicken or vegetable stock, or water
In a medium bowl, stir together the pork, mango (if using), green onions, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and sesame oil and mix it all up with your hands.
To fill wontons, place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of each wrapper; moisten the edges with water (just use your finger) and fold over, pressing the edge tightly to seal. Place seam side up on a cookie sheet, pressing lightly to flatten the bottom. Cover with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out. (Dumplings can be prepared up to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen.)
When you’re ready to cook the dumplings, drop them into simmering chicken broth and cook until they float to the surface and are firm. If you want to make potstickers, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a largeish skillet set over medium-high heat. Place half the dumplings at a time in the skillet and cook for a minute or two, until deep golden brown on the bottom, shaking the pan a few times to keep them from sticking. Don’t crowd the pan too much.
Pour about 1/4 cup stock or water into the pan. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes – this will allow them to steam, cooking them through. Makes 2 – 3 dozen dumplings or potstickers.
You can find more Chinese New Year recipes on Babble!