Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese New Year Cooking Adventure

Continuing our cooking adventures, we have had a lot of fun preparing for Chinese New Year.  We have a very sweet friend here who gave us some tips and amazing treats!  She and her family are from Singapore and are Chinese, so they have been preparing their celebrations.  She sent us a tray of the treats she made, as well as a couple packets of bakkwa, which is not even available here!  She kindly shared a couple packets that they had brought in from Singapore!

Almond cookies, Pork floss and seaweed German cookies, and pineapple tarts
Here are a few of our ingredients as we prepared to start our cooking!  In spite of being located closer to China now, these ingredients were much easier to find in Los Angeles when we lived there!

We made pineapple tarts, which is a traditional sweet for Chinese New Year.  Pineapple paste is not available here.  I found pineapple jam, but it didn't seem quite the right consistency for what the recipes were describing.  So, we made our own!  That was a bit tedious.  We kind of followed this recipe but had to adjust several things.  We didn't grate the pineapple, in spite of her warnings!  Ezekiel wanted to put it in the blender, but the combo of not ideally ripe pineapples and not a super powerful blender didn't do well.  Ezekiel said maybe we should cook it first, so we pulled out the pressure cooker, which I hoped would also potentially shorten the cooking time (and minimize gas use).  We just cooked it until it came to pressure and then released it manually.  Then, we strained off some of the juice to add in later, and it pureed well.
We also reduced the quantity from the recipe.  I used two pineapples (instead of the FIVE suggested in the recipe), and I still have a GOB of it leftover after making the tarts.  This recipe must be if you are making pineapple tarts for every single person you know!  We cut back the spices we put in as well to be one cinnamon stick, one star anise, and two cloves.  I did not measure how much sugar we ended up putting in altogether because I just kept kind of adding it and tasting.  I did BURN the jam, at one point, and I almost cried, but it seemed to recover pretty well and was just a bit darker than expected.  Zeke actually really liked stirring and checking the jam.    My friend actually gave me a recipe for the tarts, but the dough was similar to this one but without the cheese.  And, obviously, we didn't pull off the cute little goat shapes from that recipe.  I was lucky that mine all basically resembled something like spheres!  :)

 We also decided that it would be really fun to make dumplings.  I found a really great recipe for jiaozi (boiled dumplings) or guotie (panfried dumplings).  Really, when given a choice, how do you NOT choose panfried? :)
The recipe was really clear and descriptive, so it was great for our first time making these!
(As a side note:  These are so similar to momos, which is the name for the local dumplings here in Nepal that I feel a little embarrassed to not have tried making THOSE before I attempted THESE!)

Ezekiel helped me mix the filling, and then we put it in the refrigerator.  I made the first round of dough and dumplings myself last night when they were in bed.  I was glad I tried it without them in the mix first to figure it out a bit.  I have serious respect for this process!  I am actually sore from bending over the counter rolling and forming all these dumplings!
A note on the recipe is that I ended up with enough filling to match almost 3 batches of the dough.  I think we may have been a little skimpy on filling ours because they are easier to fold that way (and my boys would probably just eat the wrappers plain!), but still, it would at least probably make two batches.

We had made our treats for a little party with a few friends who also homeschool, and here is our table of goodies (not the abundance or lucky number of 8 proper for a Chinese New Year feast, but it felt like a significant accomplishment!).

 We were seriously invested in our dumpling-making and had plenty of filling left, so the boys and I made more dumplings this afternoon, and it was really fun having them help make these.  Well, that is after a deep breath or two and letting go of some control. :)  It was messy, and it is just not going to all work out quite "right" with little guys making these, but BOTH boys were excited to help.  Isaiah got to use a sharp knife (with a lot of oversight) for the first time to cut the dough, which was an exciting milestone for him.  Here are a few photos of my little dumpling makers:

So, that made dumplings for snack and dumplings for dinner!  And some to put in the freezer for another time.  Can one really have too many dumplings?  Haven't seen Isaiah eat as much for dinner as he did tonight for a long time!

I doubt this is super authentic or traditional, but to make it seem more like a full meal and since I had a ton of cabbage left over, so I did a quick search and threw this recipe for stir-fry cabbage together.  I was even a bit lazy (and literally finding it about 15 minutes before dinner) and made it even less authentic, I'm sure, by using garlic powder and ground ginger instead of fresh!  It still tasted good.  There is something so wonderful about the combo of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil!  Yum!

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