As dedicated appreciators of every culture’s food, we knew we could not let the Chinese New Year pass without some type of celebration. So when the Chinese New Year came around this past weekend, we saw the perfect opportunity to pull out our chopsticks and experiment in the kitchen.
To prepare for our Chinese food endeavor, we got in the spirit by first doing some research. The Chinese New Year is the most important of Chinese holidays, originally meant for honoring deities and ancestors. Traditional celebration includes firecrackers at midnight (to chase off evil spirits) and dumplings right after midnight (dumplings are a symbol of wealth because of their shape). Not everyone celebrates the same way, but the first day of the New Year is typically spent appreciating the elders of the family. Although neither of us have Chinese roots, we are both extremely fascinated by the traditions of the culture and absolutely love Chinese food.
We joined forces with our good friend, Tiffany Lin, and planned our celebration with the resources around campus. Originally, we wanted to go to H-Mart (the Asian supermarket on Route 40) to find authentic ingredients for our meal. But dinnertime rolled around much sooner than we anticipated so we headed to Eddie’s to explore our options.
Eddie’s, surprisingly, has more Asian options than we expected, but not enough to prepare the completely authentic Chinese dinner we dreamed of. Instead, we found two very simple recipes for dumplings and scallion pancakes and collected ingredients accordingly.
Making your own dumplings, even in a small college kitchen, is easy to do! To start, the dough is made of flour, water and salt. Mix these ingredients together and let the mixture sit for about half an hour.
Next are the fillings. Selecting the fillings for your dumplings is where you can get creative, choosing ingredients according to your own tastes. Begin with your meat of choice (unless you decide to make a veggie dumpling) and add in chopped green onions, garlic, and ginger for seasoning. Common vegetables in dumplings are napa cabbage or bok choy. Chop and stir these ingredients together, add in some soy sauce, and top it off with salt and pepper. We wanted to make chicken and pork for our Chinese New Year meal, but when we could not find ground pork at Eddie’s we decided beef would make an excellent substitute.
With the dough and the filling made, it is time to start folding. To fold your dumplings, take a small ball of dough and roll it out into a thin sheet. We didn’t have a rolling pin on hand among the hodgepodge of items in our kitchen, but we found that a jar of Prego tomato sauce did just the trick. Once you’ve rolled out your dough, scoop a teaspoon (more or less) of the filling into the middle of your dough. Then fold the dough in half so that it resembles a crescent shape. Pinch the edges together. Finally pull the two corners of your dumpling together into a shape that should look somewhat like a fortune cookie, and voila! Now all that’s left is boiling your dumplings in water. They are ready when they float to the top. Another option is frying your dumplings in a pan if you prefer a crunchier Asian delicacy.
If you end up having extra filling, just add egg whites to the mixture and make meatballs.
We also made scallion pancakes to bring in the Year of the Snake. For these scrumptious treats, we mixed flour, water, eggs, and salt. We chopped up scallions and added these into the mix. Unlike those who pick the scallion pieces out from their Carma’s sesame noodles, we love the flavor of scallions, so we added extra into our pancakes. We added water to make the mixture slightly more liquid, and then cooked them, like regular pancakes, in the frying pan.
We also doctored our soy sauces, one with garlic and another with scallions.
All in all, the meal was a huge success. We ended the night very satisfied and with Buddha-like bellies. The evening left us inspired to continue to explore new cuisines...We hear Purim is right around the corner! HAMANTASCHEN HERE WE COME!