If you are a fan of intercontinental dishes or Asian food then you must have eaten or at least heard of the Chinese dumplings. Dumplings are generally dough wrapped around a filling, although sometimes they can be prepared with just the dough. The dish is a broad class depending on what it’s made of and how it’s made.
What Are Chinese Dumplings Made of?
The dough can be made of potatoes, flour, or bread. The fillings could be anything you prefer including vegetables, meat, cheese, fruits, or even sweets. Alternatively, you could decide to opt for no filling. There are also many ways of preparing dumplings depending on the desired result. You can steam, boil, simmer, bake or fry them.
They are a sweet delicacy enjoyed by most people and are present in many world cuisines. In China, they are a very common delicacy. In northern China especially they are considered a famous traditional food that can be eaten almost daily. In this post, we will cover why dumplings are an important food in China, when they are eaten and what types of dumplings exist.
Why Chinese Eat Dumplings.
As mentioned, dumplings are a common food that the Chinese love it. It wouldn’t be surprising if they ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The real question is why do they love dumplings so much? Why are dumplings so important in their culture? Aside from the fact that they are delicious, dumplings have a strong symbolism in Chinese culture.
To begin with, there is a superstition that some Chinese have about eating dumplings. They believe that by eating them you get a sense of hope, peace, and completeness. The reason is that dumplings are normally shaped like the moon. The moon, in Chinese culture, is normally considered a symbol of brightness and abundance.
Another reason Chinese love eating dumplings is that traditionally it was seen as eating a meal worth gold. This is because some dumplings resembled the gold and silver ingots, which were the currency in Ancient China. As such, dumplings are seen to symbolize good fortune financially, hence the Chinese eat them with the belief that it will lead them to affluence.
Many Chinese also enjoy eating dumplings because the making process is fun and symbolizes togetherness. In Chinese culture, the concepts of family and togetherness are very important. Although the whole process of preparing them is long, the family can pass the time bonding and reminiscing over shared memories as they cook. Another thing is that dumplings are very filling, hence you can only eat so many alone. Therefore, it is a shared meal that is perfect for bringing families together.
When Do Chinese Eat Dumplings?
Chinese culture is filled with many symbols. There is always a meaning, behind every color, food, and even festivities. Dumplings are generally a significant traditional food in China, there are, however, specific occasions or festivities where dumplings must be present in the menu. The festivities are as follows:
The Chinese New Year.
why eat dumplings on chinese new year? Dumplings are considered one of the lucky foods that must be present when celebrating the new year. This is especially true in North China, where dumplings must be eaten on Chinese New Years’ eve during the Soring festival. The reason is that the dumplings are shaped like ingots, the old Chinese currency.
According to ancient Chinese timekeeping, the day was normally divided into 12 two-hour periods. The period between 11 pm and 1 am was called Zi, but during New Year’s Eve, the period had a special name Jiaozi, which sounds similar to the Chinese term for dumplings. As such, every Chinese New Year’s Eve, the families come together in the evening to make the dumplings so they can eat them during jiaozi (11 pm-1 am).
It was believed that by eating the dumplings at this time as they ushered in the new year, the family would experience a lucky new year. Some families would create a game out of it, where they would hide a coin in one of the dumplings. The person who happened to find the gold coin was believed to be lucky that new year.
The fifth day of the First Month According to the Lunar Calendar.
Five days after the New years there is a custom known as “breaking the fifth” that is usually performed. The reason for this custom is that, before the fifth, during the Spring festival, there are a lot of taboos people are meant to avoid. After the fifth day of the month, however, these taboos no longer apply. Therefore, people celebrate by eating dumplings.
On top of this, there some areas where a special custom exists regarding dumplings on this day. It is believed that while preparing the dumplings, you should press the edges of the wrap tightly. This ensures that the people who discuss you in your absence won’t be able to do so in the coming year.
The Beginning of Fu Days.
Fu days can also be referred to as the dog days of summer in China. According to the traditional Chinese calendar, they are 30-40 days between the ‘little heat’ and ‘great heat’ seasons. The first Fu day is another time when people usually eat the dumpling.
The reason behind it is that during the hottest days of the year, people normally end up lacking the appetite to eat. As such, people ate delicious food at the beginning to stimulate their appetite. Dumplings were chosen as the food to be eaten at the time, not only because they were delicious but also because they were filling.
Beginning of Autumn.
After the extremely hot period in summer, the coolness of autumn is highly appreciated. During the first day of autumn, the Chinese believe that one should eat a good meal, preferably with meat. They do this to gain the weight they believe was lost during the hot summer period and in preparation for the coming winter. For that reason, most people celebrate the beginning of autumn by eating dumplings filled with meat, because they are filling.
Beginning of Winter.
The origin of dumplings is said to be in Winter due to a well-known Chinese folk story about a famous doctor called Zhang Zhongjing. It is said that on one winter’s day, the doctor came across a poor family on his way home. The family didn’t have warm clothes or enough food and as a result, had frost-bitten ears. To try and cure them, Zhang made dumplings with stewed lamb, pepper, and medicine, and fed them to the patients every day. By the time the spring festival started, the patients were completely cured.
As a form of gratitude to Zhang, people continued to make and eat his dumplings to this present day. They are especially eaten at the beginning of winter because people believe that it will keep them healthy enough to survive the cold winter.
The Winter solstice is the coldest time in winter and a very important period. It is a time when the Chinese families come together to pay respect to their ancestors and eat dumplings. Some believe that the dumplings are made and eaten on this day in commemoration of doctor Zhang’s great deeds. Other’s believe that is in commemoration of the goddess Nua from the Chinese legends.
Nua was said to have created humans, sculpting each one from yellow clay. As she was forming the ears, she was worried that the clay would freeze and the ears would fall off when it became cold. So, she pierced holes into the ears and firmly attached them to the head with a string. People, therefore, eat ear-shaped dumplings during the Winter solstice in commemoration of Nua. Also, because of the superstition that if one doesn’t eat the dumplings on this day, the ears will fall off.
7 Types Of Chinese Dumplings.
As we mentioned earlier, dumplings vary based on their contents and preparations. They also vary based on how they are shaped, with different preferred ways of eating them. The following are some of the most common dumplings you are likely to come across:
These are perhaps the most common types of dumplings known around the world. They are commonly served in the infamous Wonton soup. They can also be served with chili oil or clear broth. You can fill wontons with whatever you prefer, but they are typically filled with pork or prawn, or shrimp (whole or grounded).
Xiao Long Bao
These are perfectly sculpted to keep the contents inside. They are normally steamed and filled with pork and soup. Sheng Jin Bao is a pan-fried variety of Xia long bao with pork, shrimp, and cabbage fillings.
Sometimes referred to as potstickers, these types of dumplings are pan-fried. They are primarily filled with seafood or pork and go great with soy sauce.
Banh Bot Loc.
These types of dumplings are made from tapioca wrappers filled with pork belly and shrimp. They are normally served with sweet fish chili sauce for the best taste. They are considered to be the best appetizers for any meal.
These are other types of pan-fried dumplings that are referred to as potstickers in some restaurants. They are usually filled with ground meat and vegetables and served with soy sauce. They make great appetizers or snacks.
These are traditional-styled dumplings common around Asia. They are water boiled and can e filled with anything you want. It can vary from meat to vegetable or even cheese.
These types of dumplings can be made in a variety of ways. You can boil, steam, or fry them (pan or oil). They are normally filled with ground beef or pork and served with Kimchi on the side.
Dumplings are an important traditional food in the Chinese culture, symbolizing good fortune and health. As a result, they are eaten during many of the Chinese festivities, especially in North China. As a foodie or dumpling lover, you don’t need any special occasion to enjoy this delicacy.