Thursday, February 3, 2011

Into the Rabbit Year

What is the date all Chinese children look forward to? The one where they get to eat way too much food, get red packets, have all the family around and stay up real late to welcome the next day with fire crackers and even more food? Happy Chinese New Year everybody!

Ryan with his Hong Bao (red packet)
As soon as we came home from the seafood festival, Jason and I worked like little elves to make 100 dumplings for "pre-spring festival" dinner (yeah, we like to have many meals to celebrate this event). I wasn't allowed to make any more than that as we already had too much food on the menu.

Filling for Dumplings
The worst thing about a recipe that you've known since you were a child is that it's very hard to pass on. I seriously have no idea how much of mince or chives or whatever went into the filling except that I put an appropriate amount of whatever I liked and then seasoned it to taste. Making the filling is the most time consuming part of the dumpling production line -all the ingredients must be chopped up finely so that it can be spooned into the wrappers but not so minced up that it becomes watery.

Sesame oil, salt, ground black pepper, soy sauce and white pepper (not pictured)
Our dumpling filling had about 750g pork mince (a mix of the fatty stuff and lean stuff), 500g chives, 500g can of bamboo shoots (fresh is good too), a handful of black mushrooms and the above sauces and seasonings to taste. 

Mum taking over the reins and mixing up the filling

So basically, start off with some mince (beef or pork usually) and add whatever you like. Usual fillings are beef and onion, pork and cabbage or beef and chives. I quite like celery in mine.

And now to construction:
Step 1: Place a (tea)spoonful of dumpling filling in the centre of the dumpling pastry. Leave about 2cm around the edge

Step 2: Bring the opposite sides of the pastry together and squeeze

Step 3: On the top side of the wrapper, fold one pleat angling back toward the midpoint and pinch to seal.

Step 4: Continue folding pleats until you get to the end.
Step 5: Continue on the remaining side. Tada! Pretty Dumplings!
Step 6: Repeat steps 1 through 5 until either your filling or pastry runs out
It only took one demonstration before Jason was able to make some of his own. I trained this one well. Just a tip: we made waaay too much filling -I'd say we had enough for about 300 dumplings. So I froze the filling and made some more dumplings the next day and some mince patties with the leftovers. Yum!

Grandma's homemade turnip cakes, sweet dumplings, sweet rice cake and unflavoured rice cakes
We weren't the only ones preparing for the family dinner. My grandmother came over the next day with a few surprises of her own..

She brought a lobster!
While she prepared the lobster for her famous lobster noodle dish, Jase and I made Fuzhou dumplings. Don't worry, she killed it in a "humane" way.

Fuzhou dumpling wrappers and filling
The ingredients used for the filling are pretty much the same as normal dumplings -pork mince, mushrooms and spring onions. The difference is the wrappers. I'm told that it is pork that has been beaten and then dried so the result is a lovely pork filling wrapped in a thin layer of.. well.. more pork. They are heaven.

Some of the wrappers are holey
When dry, the wrappers are very flaky so they have to be moistened before use and, when cooked, the wrapper becomes clear to reveal the delicious filling. It's alright when they're a little damaged though, you can always patch up the holes with another piece of moistened deliciousness!

Frying lobster
We had almost finished making all the dumplings when I heard my grandma yell out my name from the kitchen. It was lobster noodle time! This got me excited for several reasons -1: she was frying lobster which meant 2: her famous lobster noodles would soon be ready which meant 3: dinner would be soon and i was so hungry!

Grandma's famous lobster noodles
Grandpa was more excited than I about the lobster noodles
Together my mother, grandmother, Jason and I had prepared so much food that 10 people couldn't finish it all and we didn't even get to cook grandma's stir fried rice cakes or our dumplings (the normal ones)!

From left: fried nian gao, marinated pig stomach, rose tofu battered eel, pork and bitter melon stir fry, marinated chicken giblet and LOBSTER NOODLES
It is tradition to have Nian Gao (sticky rice cake) and fish (or in our case, eel) on CNY to symbolise fortune and abundance for the coming year.There's nothing like spending a night with your family and eating yummy food!

Kai Yun Nian Fan -New Year Rice
Not only did my mother pull out her yummiest dishes, she also brought out a fried rice dish she saw on Chinese television a few nights ago named "Kai Yun Nian Fan" (it's hard to translate -but it's about bringing in fortune for the New Year). The only issue I had with this was that it came out after I had eaten too much -but it's OK, i forced some down anyway and it was DELICIOUS! From what I could gather, the fried rice contained Chinese sausage, egg, black mushrooms, Longan flesh, green beans and ham -what's not to like?

This dish received so much great feedback that I'm sure it won't be long before my mother makes it for dinner again and I'll make sure I'm right there beside her taking photos and notes so I can share this recipe with you all. But if you understand mandarin, you can watch the show my mother got the recipe from here. I promise that it's super yummy.

I wish firecrackers were allowed in Auckland..

All recipes are on Petitchef

1 comment:

  1. Yum! What a feast! :o Sadly I no longer get red packets ever since I got married but I remember getting very excited about them-waaaah :P