Ever since I was a young girl, Lunar New Year was celebrated by gathering family and friends to our home and enjoying a giant feast together. In Chinatown of lower Manhattan in New York, (which we visited often for Chinese groceries and Chinese school), you would hear the dragon parade and lion dancers visit each store to wish the owners Happy New Year as they were followed by the telltale drums and cymbals that accompanied their performances. Red envelopes filled with money were handed out by the family elders and married couples to children for good luck. Everyone would wish each other a prosperous new year, with popular sayings like "恭喜發財" (which also means wishing you to grow your wealth/become more wealthy this year/and also used as a Happy New Year greeting).
For many Chinese families, and as far as I know, also in many other Asian cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year, celebrating with food and feasting with family is a popular tradition. In different cultures, different foods are popular--For many Chinese families celebrating the Lunar New Year, dumplings are a staple. In our family, we would always make lots and lots of them with my grandmother and aunts, eating the cooked ones as they were gathered around the kitchen table, gossiping and laughing at each other's stories as they wrapped each tasty morsel to be cooked either in the large steamer or pan-fried in the wok.
This fond memory has led me to make dumplings every year during the New Year, and throughout the year as well--what can I say, I simply love my dumplings! I'll be sharing with you today a healthier option that you can make with your family to celebrate the Lunar New Year! It'll be hard to stop eating them, and you won't need to feel guilty about it either because they're so healthy!
These dumplings are great in a clear seafood or chicken broth and pair well with simplistic flavors because the fish is so delicate and sweet. The corn adds sweetness and texture, while the ginger and white pepper adds a freshness to the fish--boil up some bok choy or other Chinese green, add some noodles and they could make a great meal too!
If you're not inclined to make your own dumplings, choose offerings that are steamed and boiled over those that are fried if you visit an Asian restaurant for the New Year. But making a classic Chinese dumpling isn't as hard as you think! This recipe for shui jiao 水餃, or boiled dumplings, only requires a few simple ingredients.
1.5 pounds flounder fillets (swai or basa fillets also work)
1 pack green vegetable dumpling wrappers
3/4 cup sweet corn kernels (cooked)
3 tbsp water
2.5 tbsp corn starch
3 tsp light soy sauce
1.5 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp ground ginger powder
3 scallion stalks (minced finely)
2 scallion stalks (minced finely)
2 tbsp ginger (grated finely)
3 tsp cooking oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1. Chop up your fish fillets and scallions finely. In a large bowl, add fish, scallions, egg, soy sauce, white pepper powder, and corn starch and sesame oil. Slowly add water, and mix until smooth.
2. Once the filling is done, get your dumplin wrappers out. Lightly wet the edge of your wrapper with water and place 1 tbsp of fish filling in the center of your wrapper. Then, you'll want to fold the wrapper in half to enclose the filling. Press the edge with your fingers so that it's sealed tightly.
3. Cook the dumplings by boiling them or steaming them, about 7 minutes. You'll know it's cooked if it's floating in the water at the top and completely opaque (not translucent). The white meat of the fish will also be opaque and easy to fork apart.
4. While the dumplings are cooking, make your dipping sauce! Cook the cooking oil until it's hot and then add the grated ginger and scallion. If you like spicy, add in some sliced red chili peppers as well for that extra kick. Once fragrant, put the mixture into a bowl and add soy sauce and sugar, mix. Done!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! Because I like spicy food, I tend to add the red chili pepper and red chili oil into my dipping sauce too :) Enjoy as is, or add it to a meal of noodles, which also represent longevity in Asian culture!
Enjoy and Happy Lunar New Year!
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