We have a long tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year at Demuths, largely thanks to our chef tutor and Chinese cookery expert Lydia Downey. Lydia has introduced us to a plethora of vegan and vegetarian Chinese dishes, including this collection of delicious dumplings, that are perfect celebratory food for Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year around the world is a colourful public celebration. It occurs between 21 January and 20 February, depending on the Chinese calendar, but in 2017 New Year’s Eve is on 28 January to welcome in the year of the rooster, so make a note in your diary to try something Chinese in honour of the day.
For Chinese families New Year is just as important as Christmas and the New Year meal is the most significant family event of the year. Everyone travels to be with family and people meet in the street to enjoy the dragon dance and loud fireworks. Just like Christmas, it is a time for special food that can be prepared and eaten together. Traditionally, the first day of the New Year is a meat-free day, to enable the body to be cleansed in preparation for the year ahead and to ensure a long life. Dishes eaten in the lead up to and during New Year also tend to be symbolic of good luck, health, wealth, longevity and prosperity. For instance, dumplings (symbolic of money and wealth) and noodles (for longevity) are always part of a Chinese New Year feast.
Dumplings in some form are eaten all over the world from Polish perogi to Italian ravioli and Japanese gyoza. Chinese dumplings are full of symbolism as well as delicious fillings and are essential for Chinese New Year, following a 2000-year-old tradition. Families in Northern China gather on New Year’s Eve and make them together. They are considered to bring wealth and prosperity, as their shapes resemble Chinese silver ingots. Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money you will make in the new year. The choice of fillings is important too: a cabbage stuffing will help you live until you are 100; a mushroom filling will bring you wealth and luck.
Different dumplings will have unique shapes and even the number of pleats in the pastry is important too, showing off the dexterity of the dumpling maker. But don’t worry, if you’re new to making dumplings, simple shapes taste just as good! They should be bite-sized and are either served in small steamer baskets or on small plates for everyone to share.
Dumplings are great fun to make and eat together, but to get into the true spirit and symbolism of Chinese New Year you should also clean your house and business before the New Year starts, to clear away bad luck and make room for good luck. It’s also considered auspicious to eat foods such as large mandarin oranges to ensure that you have luck and wealth in the New Year. Finally, make sure you wear new, brightly coloured clothing – preferably red – to scare away the evil spirits!
Mouthwatering photos by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures.
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