The Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year to all!  As we say in Chinese, “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (happy new year), and “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (congratulations, may you be prosperous)!

Year of the Dragon Prediction (from Feng Shui Forecast)

“The year 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon. From the reading of the stars and element relationships in the paht chee chart, this year is going to be a transformational life-changing year! Generally, there are more goodies in store for you in the year 2012 than 2011. It’s a good year to improve oneself, take calculated investment risks and to build wealth. The year 2012 holds much promise and may be a major transition in your life. Whether it turns out extremely good, or really bad, will depend on how you ride the mighty Water Dragon!”

Even though I grew up here in the US, I become very Chinese during the holidays.  Chinese New Year in Asia is like Christmas here in the US.  People take the whole week off to celebrate and gather with family and friends.  As it’s not a holiday in the US, it’s super awesome when CNY falls close to the weekend, and though my immediate family is a plane ride away, I still have wonderful friends to celebrate with here.

We cooked and ate some yummy traditionally lucky dishes.  The Chinese like to take words that sound alike or foods that look like certain lucky things and create meanings to foods.  So we had:

Dumplings (symbolizes wealth)

Dan Dan Noodles (symbolizes longevity)

New Year’s Cake (symbolizes growing taller or getting promotions every year)

Thank goodness I had friends who were fast learners to help me crank out over 100 dumplings, and thank goodness for all my friends being patient while they steamed!  Dumplings take a little while to make, as you have to chop up a bunch of stuff and then fold and pleat each one.  They only take 1 bite to eat though!  I don’t really use a recipe for making dumplings, but here’s the jist:

Pork Dumplings (makes about 50)
– 1 pack of Shanghai style dumpling skins
– 1 lb ground pork (not too lean)
– 6 shrimp (raw, chopped)
– 1 lb napa cabbage (finely chopped)
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 stalks green onion (finely chopped)
– 2-3 shitake mushrooms (finely chopped, if dried, rejuvenate them by soaking them in hot/boiling water for a few minutes)
– 4 tablespoons of sesame oil
– salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop the cabbage and sprinkle with salt.  Let the cabbage sit for about 10 minutes so that the water comes out.  Then, squeeze the cabbage and drain the water out.  Mix the cabbage with all the other ingredients forming a mushy meaty mess.  You can do a quick taste test for seasoning, by forming and frying up a little patty made of the filling.

Now forming the dumplings are done in many many ways and every family has a different technique.  My family makes a cute little crescent shape that’s plump and sits up on it’s own.  Here’s a similar method / shape, but you can make them however you please (including empanada / pasty – shaped like how my friend Jodi does it).

After they are formed, you can pan fry them – pot stickers (heat up pan with 1/4 cup oil, place them sitting down and fry for about 3 minutes (do not turn/touch), then add water to the pan to about 1/2 way up the dumplings, cover and steam until most of the water is gone, then uncover until all the water is gone, and you’re done!), boil them (about 8 minutes), or steam (about 10 minutes).

For the noodles, I found a great recipe from Food & Wine, Joanne Chang’s Dan Dan Noodles.  Not 100% authentic as you’re supposed to use hot chili oil instead of a jalapeno and Sriracha, but very tasty!

The New Year’s Cake was also not original, but a recipe from utryit.  I found that the recipe that I had was a bit on the dry and bland side, and this one was extremely moist and the addition of the coconut added a crunchy texture and a richer taste to the dessert.  Find the recipe and beautiful pictures here!

I wish everyone a prosperous and filling new year as I know mine will be!  THANKS for celebrating with me!

Eamonn can’t wait any longer for the dumplings!

Jodi & Lexi (expert dumpling makers)

Nicole and Izzy filling their bellies

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