Thursday, January 29, 2009

jiao zi - another chinese dumpling

a friend, a chinese from northern china, made and gave us forty jiao zi for the lunar new year. we are going to fry some of them and the rest, we will steamed them and dipped in soy-vinegar with young ginger strips. the northern chinese traditionally eat jiao zi on the eve of the new year.

the term 'jiao zi' has a number of meanings. one of if is “midnight or the end and the beginning of time.” which is why jiao zi are made and eaten on the midnight of the lunar new year's eve. another meaning of the term comes from the literal translation to “sleep together and have sons” which is a good wish for a family.

not only does the shape of the jiao zi resemble the golden ingots, it also represents a crescent moon and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty. occasionally people will add specific fillings to select dumplings in order to symbolize certain wishes. those who receive sweets will have a sweeter life, peanuts symbolize long life and dates and chestnuts represent the imminent arrival of a son.

because the word “dates” is homonymic with the word “early” in chinese, so are chestnuts (zhenzi), the syllable “zi” is homonymic with children. the tremendous amount of food prepared at this time is meant to symbolize abundance of wealth in the household.

rich families in ancient times added gold, silver and other precious stones in their dumplings. to get one of these dumplings was considered good luck. later this transitioned to adding coins in the dumplings. copper coins, for example, meant that one would never lack money. in contemporary times, only a few coins were washed and add to the batch of dumplings, the person who discovers the coin would enjoy good luck and make a lot of money in the coming year.

jiao zi typically consist of a ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping. jiao zi should not be confused with wonton: jiao zi have a thicker, chewier skin and a flatter, more oblate, double-saucer like shape, and are usually eaten with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce (and/or hot chilli sauce); while wontons have thinner skin, are sphere-shaped, and are usually served in broth. the dough for the jiao zi and wonton wrapper also consist of different ingredients.

1 comment:

Jolene said...

Jiao-zi is not difficult to make. In Melbourne, we actually buy the 'skin' from the Asian grocery shop and prepare the fillings ourselves.