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As we finish up the first month of the New Year, I’m thinking about new traditions and celebrations to add to my life based on what I’ve learned cooking with immigrant grandmothers.
Recently, I learned to make pork dumplings, a northern Chinese dish cooked every year to celebrate Lunar New Year, from a woman in my community named Tina. She told me how each year, all the women in her family gather to shape and cook the dumplings. They’d eat as they went, making more as needed.
Tina gave me a few very important tips to great dumplings. First, she always makes the skins very thin, so that when you eat a dumpling, the outside melts in your mouth and you can really taste the savory pork filling. She also stressed the importance of ginger, which intensely flavors the meat.
But what I found most interesting is Tina’s secret ingredient: She adds a 1/4 cup of soft tofu, minced fine, to the pork. She finds that the ground pork from the grocery store is much leaner than what she would get in China or Chinatown, but the tofu adds some much needed moisture to the mix.
These dumplings are very versatile: Boil, steam, or pan-fry them based on your liking. To serve, Tina puts some soy sauce and hot chili sauce on the table so that each person can have them as savory or spicy as they like.
With Lunar New Year right around the corner on January 28, I can’t wait to make a nice big batch of dumplings to serve to my family. The new year never tasted so good.
For the dumpling skins:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces warm water
For the filling and the assembly:
- 1 head napa cabbage, cut very thin from root to top
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup soft tofu, minced very fine
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- Hot chili oil, for serving
- 2 tablespoons ginger, finely minced
What new tradition will you be adding to your list this year? Tell us in the comments below!