Gong hei fat choi, or congratulations and be prosperous, is one way to wish everyone a happy Chinese New Year. Food is another.
When it comes to Chinese New Year feasts, there are so many dishes to prepare, like fresh fish, chicken, goose, roast pork belly, noodles and so on. Dumplings are a must for New Year's Eve. They symbolize wealth and togetherness, and come in savory and sweet varieties. On New Year's Eve, my family would get together and make them by hand. They can be made in whimsical shapes and you can color them with different vegetable juices. To celebrate, I'm sharing my recipe for savory pork dumplings made with our plentiful local wild spring onions. For dessert, try your hand at the rice dumplings stuffed with sweet red bean in ginger syrup. Happy Year of the Dog!
Wild Onion Pork Dumplings
For multicolored wrappers, substitute vegetable juice for the water. You can make your own juice by blending a handful of vegetables (such as wild onion leaves, spinach, purple cabbage and carrots) with water to make a thin liquid. Makes 20-24 dumplings.
For the wrappers:
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup warm water
In a large bowl, mix the flour and water by hand until it forms a smooth dough. Cover it with a clean towel and set it aside to rest for 20 minutes. Make the filling while the dough is resting.
Knead the dough again for few minutes and set aside to rest for another 20 minutes.
Divide the dough and roll it into two logs. Cut each log into 12 small pieces and dust them with flour. On a lightly floured surface, use a small rolling pin to roll each piece as you would a tiny pie to form a 4-inch, round wrapper. Try to make them thinner toward the edges. Dust with flour to keep the wrappers from sticking together and lay them on a plate with plastic wrap to separate each layer. Cover them with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set aside.
For the filling:
1 pound ground pork (not lean)
2 cups chopped wild spring onions
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
Mixed all the ingredients together evenly and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold the wrapper and pinch the edges together to close.
To boil, heat 8 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large pot until boiling. Gently drop in 8-10 dumplings and let them cook until they float to the surface. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and serve hot. You can also pan fry the boiled dumplings with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until their bottoms are golden brown and crispy.
To steam, place the dumplings on parchment paper in a bamboo steamer over boiling water. Steam for 15 minutes and remove from heat.
Serve with spicy chili sauce or soy sauce and rice vinegar.
Sweet Rice Balls with Red Beans
Sweet red bean paste and sweet rice flour are available in Asian markets. To add color to the rice balls, add 2 tablespoons matcha powder or 3 tablespoons of purple yam powder to the flour. You can also replace ½ cup of the hot water with vegetable juice for color. Serves 4-6.
For the dumplings:
2 cups sweet rice flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup hot water
1 cup red bean paste
Roll the bean paste into 20 little balls and refrigerate them in a covered bowl.
Add the hot water to the flour, kneading until it becomes a soft dough.
Roll the dough into a log, then cut it into 20 small pieces — about 1 tablespoon each. Use your palms to roll them into balls.
Form a well in each rice ball by pressing your thumb into the center of the dough. Place a ball of bean filling in the well and pinch the dough around it to enclose the ball.
Once all the rice balls are filled, make the ginger syrup.
For the syrup:
3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 5 pieces
4 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
In a large pot, heat the ginger, water and sugar until boiling. Gently add a handful of rice balls in and cook over medium-high heat until the balls float. Do not crowd them or they will stick together.
Serve a few balls in each bowl with the ginger syrup.