Special Contribution By: Chef Taylor Lewis, Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks

Happy New Year everyone!

As we are now three weeks into a new decade, this is a great time to reflect on traditions we want to carry forward into the next 10 years and beyond. For those of us who follow the lunar calendar, the lunar new year is just around the corner, falling on January 25th this year, making this a time for celebrations!

Lunar new year, sometimes also referred to as Chinese New Year is widely celebrated throughout China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Tibet. The exact day that the celebration begins depends on the first New Moon that takes place between January 21st and February 20th. With the celebrations to welcome in the new year comes many traditions and customs which are carried out for 16 days following the new year leading into the Spring Lantern Festival.

On the evening before Chinese New Year, it is a tradition for families to gather together and share a meal. This dinner is considered one of the most important meals of the whole year, and everyone is expected to join in! Every dish that is served during Chinese New Year has a special significance which varies from region to region, but there are some plates no Chinese New Year dinner would be complete without.

In Chinese, the word for fish sounds like the word for surplus, which is usually represented by serving steamed fish. It’s important to serve the fish as the last dish on Chinese New Year, and have a little leftover to represent the surplus the family carries into the new year.

Dumplings and spring rolls are said to bring wealth to the family, while noodles are served to welcome happiness and prosperity. My favourite legend says that the more dumplings you enjoy, the more wealth you’ll gain in the new year, which is a message I fully stand behind!

While my family does not always celebrate Chinese New Year, and my Chinese father may no longer hand me the small red envelopes filled with money for good fortune, my passion for this part of my heritage has grown stronger over the years. The month of January represents many things to different families, can be both a new start and a time for reflection on the year that has passed. Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, there’s no better way to welcome the future and honour the past than sharing a meal with loved ones.

I know you will enjoy my favourite Dumpling Recipe. Try this recipe as a family; there are lots of different steps to involve children of all ages!

Chef Taylor’s Recipe for Jiaozi (pork dumplings)

Yield: 20 dumplings

Ingredients: 

  • 100g green cabbage, grated 
  • 30g carrots, grated
  • 110g ground pork or beef 
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped (10g) 
  • 10 g of chives, finely chopped 
  • 4g ginger, minced 
  • ¼ tsp  ground pepper 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ egg (25g) 
  • 20 round dumpling skins 

Directions: 

Filling:

  1. Put the green cabbage and carrots in a food processor. Pulse until fine and well combined. Remove from food processor and place in a medium bowl. Squeeze any excess water from the vegetables with your hands into a small bowl.  
  2. In a medium non-stick pan, heat half the cooking oil over medium heat. Saute the ginger for 1 minute, until very fragrant. To the ginger, add the ground pork and sauté for 5 minutes until cooked through. To the pork, add pulsed vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove filling from heat. Once slightly warm, add egg, salt & pepper,sugar chives and green onion. 

Assemble dumplings: 

  1. Now assemble dumplings as shown by chef. Wet one edge of the dumpling wrapper, and place a spoonful of filling in the middle. Fold the round wrapper in half, and pinch the centre point together. Fold the ends in, creating a pleat on each side and pinch to seal. Make sure there are no holes. At the end, your dumpling should have a flat bottom – this is important to frying the dumplings so they have a crispy texture on one side.

Fry the dumplings: 

  1. Coat a frying pan with oil and heat over high heat. Place in the dumplings, carefully making sure not to splash the oil. When the bottom becomes golden brown, pour in water (approximately ½ cup or just enough to coat ⅓ of the dumplings). Cover the pan with a lid immediately. Uncover when the water evaporates completely, about 3-5 minutes. 

Chef’s tip: These dumplings can also be enjoyed steamed or boiled! Try preparing them different ways at home to find your favourite way to eat them.