The Chinese New Year is right around the corner and just like last year, I want to dedicate a special post to the occasion. At the beginning I thought I would do a dumplings cooking lessen but then I figured it has been done before by many others (here’s an excellent lesson if you’re looking for one) and there is nothing new I can bring to the table. Then I thought about it again and there’s actually one very important thing which often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
While most lessons do a good job teaching how to make the dough and prepare the filling, they often run through the wrapping part quickly and show only the basic technique and maybe one or two more. So I went online, ran a baidu video search and found this excellent video which demonstrates 8 different wrapping methods which will give your dumplings an edge and make your jiaozi the “belle of the bowl” on New Year’s Eve and every other occasion.
The fact the creator of this video chose eight techniques is not a coincidence. In Chinese culture the number 8 signifies making a fortune. While each technique can be used in different type of cooking, there are some guidelines and unique meaning for some of the shapes in the clip.
- Two Thumbs Up – this is the standard technique, mostly associated with dongbei shuijiao – boiled dumplings Northeast China style.
- The Reach-Around – in Chinese it is called 元宝 (yuán bǎo) after old Chinese money which had a hole in the middle. It’s also mostly used for boiled dumplings.
- The Fold-Over – This technique is very common and usually used for steamed dumplings and sticky pots.
- The Symmetrical Fold-Over – In Chinese it is known as the fish-shaped dumpling (鱼形饺 – yú xíng jiǎo). In Chinese culture fish symbolizes abundance and plenty so that is also a very popular shape.
- The Rope-a-dopes – beautiful shapes usually used for boiled dumplings.
- The remaining two (Tricorne and Twisty Pinch) are suitable for all three types of cooking.
Dumplings and the New Year
Eating dumplings on New Year’s Eve is a common tradition in the northern parts of China (in the south it’s more popular to eat rice cakes known as Nian Gao). Most people believe it to be simply because dumplings look like little treasure chests and therefore they are believed to bring good fortune for the new year. While this true, it’s not the main reason. The main reason lies within eight Chinese characters:
更岁交子 –gēng suì jiāo zǐ
This expression means years (岁) change (更) and meet (交) at the time between 23:00 and 01:00 (子). And since 交子 sound a lot like 饺子 (jiǎozi) which means dumplings, they have become a symbol for welcoming the New Year and leaving the old one behind. Yuanbao and fish-shaped dumpling are especially popular on New Year’s Eve as a form of wishing for a prosperous year. Sometimes people even hide a coin in one of the dumplings since they believe whomever finds it has the best chances of getting rich in the year to come.
By the way, the tradition of Dumpling is not exclusive to New Year’s Eve. It is also customary to eat dumplings during the Winter Solstice Festival (冬至).
Well, that’s pretty much it. I will leave you with a gallery of pretty pictures for inspiration.