Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year) and welcome to the year of the Dragon! The Chinese Dragon was a mythical creature; a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. The oriental dragon is regarded as a divine beast, nothing like the western dragon -a creature to find and slay. In Eastern philosophy, the dragon is said to be a deliverer of good fortune and master of authority. Therefore, people born on this day are to be honored and respected.
As a kid, I looked forward to this special day all year long. I can only describe it as having your birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas all on the same day. However, it was a little confusing because it always came after the official New Year. Everyone dressed in their very best attire to welcome guests and family from far and wide into the home to celebrate, eat, and especially get a little red pouches of lucky money (leisee). What more can a kid ask for?
Many Asian superstitions are attached to the New Year. Here are some examples of traditions that should be followed if one hopes to have a good year.
1. Clean house, but only before the new year arrives. It’s because you are sweeping away the bad luck that may have accumulated in the past.
2. Decorate and wear red. Red is the luckiest color. Cover doors and window panes with cutouts of lucky characters in red and remember to wear something red.
3. No cleaning in the first three days of the year – for the risk of sweeping away any good luck.
4. Make an offer to the Kitchen God – to make sure that he gives a good report on the family’s behavior upon returning to heaven. Also, this is a time to honor our ancestors.
5. The most important tradition is to spend time with family preparing food.
6. Give out leisee – red money pouches on New Years Day. Children usually receive these, but as children grow into adults and have families of their own; the favor is now returned to the elderly.
7. Serve festive foods. Certain food are served because they symbolizes abundance and good fortune. For examples: noodles represent longevity (remember to never cut them); oranges and tangerines represents wealth and luck, lychee nuts and lotus seeds provide sweet beginning to the new year and lastly, dumplings have very specials meanings. The round ones signifies family gathering and the half moon (crescent) ones signifies wealth and prosperity.
So, in honor of Tet (Vietnamese for New Year), here’s an easy recipe for my version of dumplings. The dipping sauce is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s “Dumplings” book.
1 lb gr. pork
1 small head of napa cabbage
2 tsp kosher salt
4-5 minced whole green onion
1 tsp of black pepper
2 Tbs of soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs of rice wine vineger
1Tbs finely minced ginger
3 tsp sesame oil
1 pkg. pot sticker wrapper (rounded, if you can find them)
To make the filling mix all ingredients in lg. bowl.
Place 1 Tbs of filling and place in middle of wrapper (I used the square ones, thanks to my husband). If you’re using the square ones, use water to pinch opposite corners and make a triangle. If you’re using the round ones, when folding one side on the other try pinching pleats on one side of the dumplings. Repeat until the filling are used up.
Place one cup of water in the pan on medium heat and place some dumplings in pan when boiling. steam for about five minutes. You’ll have to do this in batches. When all are steam, dry pan out and add some oil and fry the dumpling for about 2 minutes on each side for a little crunch.
To make the dipping sauce:
1/3 C soy sauce
2 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1 – 3 Tbs chili oil (optional)
1 Tbs finely minced ginger
Combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste to make sure it’s to your liking, adjust to your liking (I add water, sometimes).
Radmama is a busy mom. In her spare time, she is the mad couponer behind Coupon Madness (Go here, lower left side). She believes that there is a coupon for everything you should ever need, and hasn’t paid full price for something since 1999. Radmama is also San Juan Parent’s primary recipe contributor. She is always looking for the easiest and most satisfying recipes to feed a family of five. Her specialty is Asian cooking, and her challenge in small town life is seeking out all the ingredients that make her recipes so awesome.
Radmama is a busy mom. In her spare time, she is the mad couponer behind Coupon Madness. She believes that there is a coupon for everything you should ever need, and hasn’t paid full price for something since 1999. Radmama also loves to cook. She is always looking for the easiest and most satisfying recipes to feed a family of five. Her specialty is Asian cooking, and her challenge in small town life is seeking out all the ingredients that make her recipes so awesome.