The meaning of dumplings
In China, dumplings (饺子) originated from northern China and are believed to bring good luck and prosperity, due to their unusual shape resembling ancient gold ingots.
Traditionally, dumplings are made on the eve of Chinese new year, and a small coin is hidden inside one. Whoever finds the coin is said to have good fortune for the new year!
This is particularly the case for ‘water dumplings’ (水饺) – those boiled in water rather than pan fried.
Another story about dumplings is that of Zhang Zhongjing, who made dumplings from mutton, chilli and herbs as a remedy against frost-bite. This legend explains why dumplings are traditionally folded into an ‘ear’ shape, as this was believed to help the ‘medicine’ target the ears!
Making the filling
The filling of dumplings can be made from a wide variety of food, generally some form of mince meat combined with vegetables and herbs.
The constitution of these fillings varies between provinces in China, with the north favouring heavier, meaty fillings, while those found around Shanghai often include soup fillings.
In the south of China, lighter dumplings containing shrimp or vegetables and herbs are favoured.
Filling and folding
The filling is then folded into paper-thin circles of dough, before being carefully folded into their characteristic ear shape.
This is one of the most challenging steps of making dumplings, since they are easy to over-fill and difficult to fold correctly! Our au pairs did a fantastic job though!
Cooking and eating!
Everyone’s favourite part, once the dumplings are all folded and boiled, time to eat!
Dumplings are often dipped in vinegar or soy sauce to add some extra flavour, and those a little braver can add chilli paste!