One of the things that I think define Chinese culture is the food. But the ‘Chinese’ food cooked in my house differs greatly from what I eat when I’m at school. I’m not sure why, but I am a huge fan of what I usually term fake Chinese food. I think I order Dragon gate or eat at Panda Express at least once a week. And from these two places, I usually end up getting the same thing again and again – fried rice and orange chicken, sesame chicken and white rice, beef lo mein, or chicken and broccoli. When I am at home, while my mom will sometimes cook fried rice, my diet usually consists of dumplings, fried dumplings, and various adjustments to the dumplings. Also we do eat a lot of chicken, but nothing that I would find in a Chinese restaurant. While we often do eat other types of food at home (a.k.a having my mom cook us some macaroni and cheese for example), we usually just stick with eating dumplings for most of our meals
|An example of my typical fare when at school|
History and Facts about Chinese Dumplings
Dumplings in China can take on a variety of names depending on how they are made and what they are made out of. In my home, we call them jiaozi (饺子). Jiaozi are made by wrapping minced meat and vegetables in an elastic doughy skin. My mom makes use of the blender quite often when making dumplings, and depending on how tired she is, sometimes she will make the doughy skin and sometimes she will just buy it from the store. An interesting fact about dumplings is their use in the Chinese New Year festival. They are eaten on Chinese New Year’s Eve and on the 5th day of the New Year. The jiaozi are supposed to resemble the gold yuan used during the Ming dynasty and is symbolizes wealth and prosperity for the New Year. According to Chinese stories, a doctor named Zhang Zhongjing invented the dumpling as a way to help the poor against chilblains.
|Jiaozi. This image is similar to the jiaozi my mother makes|
Jiaozi are actually more commonly eaten in Northern China, while another type of dumpling called wonton are more popular in Southern China. This makes sense to me, as my mom was born and raised in Qingdao, which is a northern port city, and she had learned how to make and cook dumplings from her Grandmother. There are quite a number of different types of dumplings and different ways of eating them. We dip our jiaozi in soy sauce and other spices, but there are many other types and names for dumplings just in China alone. I’ve listed some examples below.
Shuijiao à literally means water dumpling; boiled dumplings
Zhengjiao à steamed dumplings
Guotie à Shallow fried dumplings
Danjiao à dumplings that instead of dough, uses an egg skin
Jiaozi also differ in the way they are made and what types of meat they contain. Some like using pork, others beef, and others chicken. My mom usually makes chicken or beef dumplings, and she mixes what she thinks is the best vegetables with them. Personally my favorite is beef dumplings that contains carrots and celery. I am hoping to learn from my mom how to make dumplings, since I still have no clue except the cooking process (but not the preparation process).