Chinese New Year dumplings with hot chili sauce. (JG Photo/Petty Elliott)

Usher In the Chinese Year of the Goat With a Sizzling Plate of Jiao Zi Dumplings

FEBRUARY 22, 2015

Thursday was the first day of Chinese New Year, the most important celebration in the lunar calendar. Also known as the Spring Festival, the family festivities last for 15 days.

In every culture food has a very important role in any celebration. But in the Chinese community, all the food and fresh fruit served during New Year festivities are not only important but also loaded with meaning; every table at a party features these dishes. 

Among these are spring rolls, a Cantonese dim sum appetizer named after the Spring Festival that represent gold bars, symbolizing wealth. Mandarin oranges are also a prominent feature at Chinese New Year events, serving as a symbol of good luck.

Long noodles, meanwhile, represent longevity. Whole fish, symbolizing prosperity, and chicken served with its head and feet intact to connote unity are also served. Traditionally, families spend New Year’s Eve preparing dumplings — representing the passing of the old and welcoming of the new.

Celebrants will also enjoy classic sweets such as rice cakes, which celebrate the beginning of the rice harvest in the spring. And finally, sweet rice balls signify a complete circle of harmony and unity within the family.

This week, I have prepared a recipe for dumplings in hot chili sauce, known as Jiao Zi. Often filled with pork or shrimp, these little delicious parcels can be replaced with chicken or vegetables and tofu for vegetarians. The appetizer is similar to the Japanese Gyoza but has thicker skin.

Your family and friends will love these easy-to-make Chinese New Year treats. Enjoy!

Mince chicken and shrimp dumplings in hot chili sauce

These versatile dumplings go equally well with stir-fried vegetables, added to any noodles dish or served with hot chili sauce and steamed rice. 

To save time, buy the dumpling pastry or shells from a Japanese supermarket; use two layers of pastry to make one dumpling for a thicker texture.

Serves four (24 dumplings).

Ingredients:

•For the dumplings: 48 dumpling pastry/shells; 150gr minced lean chicken; 150gr minced shrimp; 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely ground; 1 thumb or 10gr fresh ginger, peeled and grated; 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion; half tablespoon sesame oil; 2 red bird’s-eye chilis, finely sliced; salt to taste.

•For the chili sauce: 1 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan peppercorn or andaliman; 10 curly red chili peppers, finely ground; 4 shallots, peeled and finely ground; 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for sauteing; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; 1 teaspoon apple vinegar; pinch of sugar; salt for seasoning.

Directions:

•Mix the garlic, ginger and spring onions in a big bowl.

•Add the minced chicken, prawn and sesame oil. Season with salt and mix well.

•Put a tablespoon or a teaspoon (depending on how big you like your dumplings) of the mixture in the center of the dumpling shell. Dab water around the edges and fold. Pinch and fold the sides to ensure the dumpling is completely sealed. Make 24 dumplings and set aside.

•To start making the chili sauce, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add the ground chili and shallots and saute until the mixture is dried. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave to cool.

•Add the rest of the vegetable oil, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar into the chili mixture. Mix well and set aside.

•Bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil in a large pan. Gently lower the dumplings into the water and let them cook for 4-5 minutes.

•To serve, ladle out the dumplings and chili oil onto four serving plates. Serve immediately as a snack or with steamed rice.

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