EN-Episode 8: Chinese Cuisine – Dumplings

Original audio (translated transcript below):

Hello, everyone, it’s Kaycee here.

Last week we talked about some of the Chinese customs of gift giving and some of the etiquette at the table. Now that we’re talking about the table, how can we not talk about food? There are all kinds of food in Chinese food: snacks, southern food, northern food, traditional food and dark food. The beauty of food is not only in the colour and aroma of the food, but also in the moment of joy and admiration, the emotions, the memories, the healing. So we could probably talk about Chinese food for a thousand and one nights. Where do we start? Well, since it’s New Year again, let’s start with dumplings.

What are dumplings?
Everyone should know what dumplings are. It’s a dumpling made from a dough skin, wrapped in a variety of fillings and boiled in water. When they are cooked, they are ready to eat. It sounds very simple but, let me tell you, it is only after you have experienced it that you can understand the unique skill and art of making it. The process of making dumplings must not be underestimated.

How do you make the pastry? It is usually made by mixing cold water and flour together, kneading it into a large rough dough, covering it with a life-saving damp saran wrap or towel and leaving it for an hour or so. After an hour, take it out and cut it with a knife or by hand into small dough balls, which are then rolled out with a rolling pin. Make sure it’s thin but not too thin. If it is too thin, it will break easily during cooking. Once the crust is ready, you can wrap the filling in it. I personally prefer the leek filling, but there are many different kinds of fillings, from meat to vegetarian, sweet to savoury. Once they are all wrapped, you can cook them in water. Once cooked, they are ready to eat.

The dumplings are characterised by their thin skin, tender filling, delicious taste and unique shape. You will never tire of eating them.

The history of dumplings
Dumplings are a traditional Chinese food, originally called “Jiao Er”, and were first invented by Zhang Zhong Jing, the sage of medicine, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, more than 1,800 years ago.

As the saying goes, “When it’s cold, eat dumplings for the New Year”. I remember when I was a child, every New Year’s Eve, the more familiar relatives of my family would come to our house for dinner. We would watch the Spring Festival Gala, play mahjong, chat and so on. Then around 9pm or 10pm, my grandmother or grandma would lead us in making dumplings and we would be busy. The dumplings would be ready by midnight and the countdown would be on: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year! Then we all sat down and ate dumplings. We hope that the new year will be a happy one for everyone, like the dumplings, and that the family will be reunited. How did this custom come about?

According to the literature, the custom of eating dumplings during the Chinese New Year was already present during the Ming Dynasty and became very widespread during the Qing Dynasty. In ancient China, each day was divided into twelve periods, and each day began with the hour of the son, which is equivalent to the time between 23:00 and 1:00 at midnight today, and at the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve, it was not just the change of the old and the new, but the change of the old and the new, which the Chinese call “jiaozi The Chinese call it “jiaozi”.

The Chinese are very conscious of boundaries, especially the boundary between the old and the new, and it is at this time that rituals are performed to pray for good fortune in the coming year. This is why the northern Chinese have slowly developed the custom of eating dumplings on the first day of the Lunar New Year, during the Spring Festival. For the Chinese, who cherish family ties, New Year’s Eve is a time when the snow falls silently outside the window, the light inside the house is warm and the pot is steaming. All thoughts and wishes are wrapped into the thin skin of the dumpling! The more the water boils over the red fire, the more delicious the dumplings become, accompanied by the firecrackers to welcome the new year.

Who knew that there was such a rich culture behind the delicious dumplings? This year’s Chinese New Year will fall on 25 January, so I hope you can prepare for making dumplings in advance.

Well, that’s it for today. We’ll see you next week.

To give you some dumpling-related sayings:
Out dumpling in door dumpling opening – revealing the filling
A blind man eats dumplings – he knows what he’s doing
A dumb man eats dumplings – he knows what’s in his stomach
Dumplings in a teapot – you have the goods in your belly
A dumpling in a teapot – you can’t pour it out

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