"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China


Dumplings 101
February 8, 2016, 1:25 am
Filed under: Asia abroad, Chinese culture, food, holidays

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I’m always grateful for a second chance to celebrate the New Year, especially because I was trapped in bed with the flu the first time around.

We stayed up all night watching Chinese news–exciting fluff about people celebrating the New Year, soldiers sending video messages back home, etc.–and made it through half of Chun Wan before falling asleep. Chun Wan is four-hour live show of skits, comedy acts, dancing, singing–the Chinese version of SNL, essentially, and a treasured tradition of modern Chinese. 

By 8am San Francisco time, the New Year had begun. We woke up, said Happy New Year, and went back to sleep.

Later, we got a big group of people together for a New Year’s dinner at a Sichuan restaurant. This has become a tradition for us . . . even though the more Chinese thing to do is to eat dumplings.

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At the stroke of the New Year, Chinese families sit down to a second dinner of dumplings (in the north east, at least; in the south I think they eat tangyuan, a dessert worthy of its own blog entry–I WILL get to it, trust me).

But wait! We did make dumplings–two weeks ago, anyway, in honor of my wonderful college Roomie’s visit.

We had made beef, radish, and carrot dumplings. Get ground beef and marinate it with soy sauce for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, shred carrots and radish with a microplane, and toss it in. Stir in one egg white, to keep everything sticky.

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Our dumplings, not beautiful–yet.

Our dumplings, sadly, were not perfect. We missed a step–you need to boil the radish separately first, so that it cooks longer. We also made the amateur mistake of forgetting salt. Yes, I know, who does that . . . Our dumplings, however, were rescued by simple sauce of vinegar and garlic. With sauce, no dumpling can disappoint.

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A big space sprinkled with flour is ideal for wrapping dumplings. On the left are dumpling wrappers we bought from Chinatown . . . as much as we love dumplings, who has time to make the dough from scratch?

While Lipeng’s job is to make the filling, mine is to wrap them in dumpling skins. I hate arts and crafts, I hate using my hands to make things–but I love wrapping dumplings. I love teaching my friends to do it, too.

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Do you know how to wrap dumplings? It’s not as hard as it looks. If I can do it, I’m sure anyone can: growing up, everyone in my family could spot the Christmas gifts from me by the awful wrapping job. Here’s how my mother-in-law taught me:

Once you’ve wrapped them, cook them in boiling water until they float to the surface–then, they’re done!

So if you want to get in the spirit of Chinese New Year, consider a dinner of homemade dumplings–simple to make, and a fun bonding experience with family or friends.

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