When my sister comes to visit, my father always makes some type of vegetarian dumpling for her. The filling changes seasonally and depends on what's growing in the garden. While I am not a vegetarian, often I love the vegetarian dumplings just as much! I love the looser texture of the chopped vegetables along with julienned beancurd, coarsely chopped wood ear, and sometimes - but not in this picture - mung bean noodles. I especially love the generous drizzle of dark toasted sesame oil, minced ginger and chopped cilantro. You can't go wrong with all those delicious flavors! These dumplings are made with chopped garlic chives - an easy to grow perennial that is eaten like a vegetable (as opposed to an herb) in Chinese cuisine.
Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the rooster!
Want to know a sneaky trick? If you'd like to know how old someone is without offending, ask their Chinese zodiac sign. The Chinese zodiac works on a 12 year cycle (maybe one day I'll tell you the story my mom told me about why there is no cat in the Chinese zodiac). It is my husband's year. He is a rooster, which means, he is either 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, etc. years old this year.
Upon researching the zodiac, we learned there are 5 Chinese elements, and this is the year of the Fire Rooster. You're a Fire Rooster if you're born this year, or were born in 1909. My husband is an Earth Rooster. The characteristics of an Earth Rooster fit him well - Earth Roosters love to travel, are trustworthy and generous, and are popular among their friends.
We also learned that the year of your zodiac year can be unlucky. I think this is why according to my mom, you have to wear a red string around your wrist all year if it is your zodiac year. However, we also just learned that the color red, generally a auspicious color, is the unlucky color specifically for roosters. What to do?! We then tried to look up his lucky days, which are the 4th and 26th of each month. But...we're talking about 4th and 26th days on the lunar calendar, which is very different from the calendar that hangs on our fridge. This is getting even more difficult.
Anyway, dumplings are traditionally part of our Chinese New Year feast - along with many other symbolic foods and dishes. My father likes to add a couple of scrubbed-clean coins to his batch of dumplings. The person who finds the coin is said to be set on the path of good luck for the new lunar year. At least we can depend on this easy-to-understand game of good luck!
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.