When Lunar New Year comes around, I like to pile on the Asian symbols of good luck – especially when it comes to food. Traditional Vietnamese Tet foods have certain cultural symbols. Foods like banh chung sticky rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves echo the modesty and resourcefulness of Vietnamese cooks. There are just a handful of ingredients that go into that sensational preparation.
Whereas Viet Tet foods are humble, Chinese New Year foods are loaded with promises of fortune. Next week when we celebrate Lunar New Year on January 23 and 24, I’m planning a menu of Vietnamese Tet foods and Chinese New Year dumplings. I haven’t narrowed down which ones to make but here are some candidates:
Jiaozi dumplings – I love these hearty dumplings (a sample is pictured above) this time of the year. They are little bundles of joy. Their shape resemble gold ingots so eating lots of them during Chinese New Year is suppose to invite good fortune. The term jiaozi (“gee-OW zeh”) generically applies to a broad category of dumplings in the Chinese repertoire.
It’s a northern Chinese tradition for families to gather and made a ton of jiaozi dumplings. Some people roll out the dough into individual skins while others fill and cook the dumplings. The hot dumplings get tumbled in a mess of soy sauce, vinegar and chile oil for a great warming snack. The filling can be meaty or vegetarian. I suppose you could even make gluten-free dumplings too!
Poached dumplings (think ravioli) are most traditional but heck, it’s the Year of the Dragon and you’re free to go crazy. Panfry the dumplings into pot stickers or deep-fry them into crisp pockets of joy. Or steam them. You could even make Tibetan momos or Japanese pot stickers as riffs. The first chapter of Asian Dumplings offers a whole host of options. You could even make a filling on the fly.
Fried spring roll – The lovely crisp rolls are suppose to symbolize gold bars. Why not eat some “gold” for Lunar New Year? The Chinese call their new year the Spring Festival so a spring roll is extra appropriate! Choose from a Cantonese char siu pork and vegetable filling or even try a Filipino lumpia if you prefer a Southeast Asian twist. Earlier this year, I made an oyster spring roll that’s lovely.
Sesame seed balls – Oh my...you have likely eaten these deep-fried balls filled with sweetened bean paste. When they’re fresh from the fryer, they are delightful. Cantonese jin deui are a favorite for Chinese New Year that began in the Tang Dynasty.
I read on a Hong Kong website that the Chinese say: “Stacks of jin deui will bring in stacks of gold and silver.” The golden color of the fried balls symbolize wealth and the round shape means that your prosperity will roll on forever. I know it sounds hokey but that’s part of the charm of the holiday. Frying the balls is a hoot because the dough expands as you press them against the side of the pan (see Asian Dumplings, page 201, for a recipe).
Wontons – This is likely the easiest of dumplings to make for Chinese New Year. Good wontons skins are commercially available in many places. You could shape the wontons to resemble a little gold ingot by aiming for the Nurse’s cap look. A wintry favorite of mine are vegetable and pork wontons, which I poach and then serve with chile oil. Or, fry some crab rangoon up as a cocktail snack.
Stuffed buns – Have a bao fest and impress your guests with various fillings and cooking techniques. That’s what Andrew Janjigian, an editor with Cook’s Illustrated, told me he’s planning for this coming weekend.
You can’t go wrong with dumplings for New Year’s. Good homemade Asian dumplings are gems. Treat yourself, family and friends to the simple splendor of a tasty dumpling. You’d load up on prosperity.
Related posts and recipes: (many of these are on Asian Dumpling Tips)
- Strategic Asian Dumpling Menu Planning
- How to Teach Children to Cook? Make Wontons
- How to Have a Dumpling Party (and not work hard)
- Asian Dumplings Potluck Tips
- Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Bao
- Chinese Daikon Radish Cakes (Luo Bo Gao)
- Vegetarian Daikon Radish Cakes a la Slanted Door
- Vegetarian Hue Rice Dumpling
- Sugar Egg Puffs (Bai Tang Sha Weng)
- Watermelon Radish and Cucumber Salad
- Chilled Cucumber with Garlic
- Silver Pin Noodles with Chicken, Bean Sprouts, and Scallion
Check the VWK Recipe Index for more ideas.