According to my grandmother who hails from Taishan, China, Dong Zhi, or the Winter Solstice Festival, is one of the biggest holidays in China, similar to how westerners celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving. It's not the same exact date every year, but always falls around the same time according to the Lunar solar calendar.
"Dong Zhi is bigger than the New Year" she says. Why? Because after Dong Zhi, the days are longer with more sunlight, and the flow of positive energy returns after the short, dark days of winter--Dong Zhi is also a time of year where the family gathers together and eats a very specific dish, Tong Yuan, glutinous rice balls, which symbolizes the idea of "reunion." The characters for Tong Yuan in Chinese also sounds like the phrase Tuen Yuen 團圓, which means "reunion."
!This is a dish that is typically made in a large pot and then enjoyed by the whole family. Ingredients include glutinous rice flour, cabbage, pork (or chicken), dried shrimp, dried scallops, Chinese sausage, daikon radish and shiitake mushroom. The soup is prepared with the vegetables and meat, while the glutinous rice flour is made into a dough with cold water. Once the dough is ready, little balls are rolled out and boiled in to the soup. When the rice balls float and the daikon radish is transparent, it's time to gather round and eat!
This dish can also be enhanced with oyster sauce and white pepper--it's a warming dish that's perfect for the cold winter weather! The glutinous rice dumplings are soft and pillowy, so it feels like eating smooth little clouds in a comforting soup. Each bite is soft and....almost bouncy!
My grandmother never measures her ingredients, but here is an approximation of her recipe 😊
• Glutinous rice flour (1/2 bag) + cold water
• Pork rib meat (or chicken thigh meat)
• Cabbage (1/2 head)
• Daikon (1/2 head)
• Dried Shrimp (1/4 cup)
• Dried Shiitake Mushroom (15 pieces) - rehydrated
• Dried baby scallops (1/2 cup)
• 2 Chinese sausages (cut into 1/2 pieces)
• Chicken bouillon powder (or salt) to taste
• 5 cups water
To create the tong yuan dough, add cold water a little by little and knead until the dough forms and is no longer sticky. Then, pull out a small amount of dough and roll into small balls, about 1/2 inch in size. They'll grow to be about 1-1.5 inches round when boiled in the soup.
1. First, boil a pot of water and blanch the meat for about 10 seconds. Then, rinse the chicken or pork meat under cold water and drain the blanch water. Start a new pot of water and start cooking the meat, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, dried scallops and cabbage in the boiling water. Skim and remove foam and debris from the top of the soup as it cooks. Add the daikon radish last before adding the glutinous rice dumplings and cook until transparent.
2. As the soup is cooking, roll out the dumpling balls and place into the soup to cook. Once the balls become a little translucent and begin to float, it's ready to eat!
Some other renditions of tong yuan can be sweet and filled with sweet sesame or peanut paste, or the tong yuan can be filled with ground meat and shrimp. This is up to the traditions of each family, but we usually have it savory in our house.
Now that my grandmother has shared her recipe, I look forward to making it and passing this part of my culture and tradition down through my own family in the future too 😊 May you enjoy a warm family reunion for the Winter Solstice!
Dumplings are one of my absolute favorite foods—EVER. That along with noodles of course. Dumplings hold a special place in my heart and are rooted in my memories, mainly with family. To me, dumplings symbolize little pockets of fond memories, pockets of happiness. They are tiny wrapped bundles of joy gifted from maker to taster. Growing up, my grandmother would make a variety of dumplings and buns from scratch and I would always watch in awe as she kneaded flour into dough, dough into skins, and then wrapping those skins around tasty fillings of meats and vegetables.
I love any kind of dumpling, but I'll be sharing with you today a healthier option that you can make with your family! Made with vegetable dumpling skins, sole fillets, ginger and scallion, the flavors are light and reminiscent of ginger/scallion steamed fish dishes I grew up with that my family made and that we also enjoyed in Chinese restaurants. It'll be hard to stop eating them, and you won't need to feel guilty about it either because they're so healthy! Plus the dumplings are green because of the veggie wrappers, so it's practically like eating a salad with fish! Hahaha...yeah didn't sound as funny as I hoped it would...Anyhow...
These dumplings are great in a clear seafood or chicken broth and pair well with simplistic flavors because the fish is so delicate and sweet. The corn adds sweetness and texture, while the ginger and white pepper adds a freshness to the fish--boil up some bok choy or other Chinese green, add some noodles and they could make a great meal too!
If you're not inclined to make your own dumplings, choose offerings that are steamed and boiled over those that are fried if you visit an Asian restaurant. But making a classic Chinese dumpling isn't as hard as you think! This recipe for shui jiao 水餃, or boiled dumplings, only requires a few simple ingredients
1.5 pounds gray sole fillets (flounder, swai, basa fillets also work)
1 pack green vegetable dumpling wrappers
3/4 cup sweet corn kernels (cooked)
3 tbsp water
2.5 tbsp corn starch
3 tsp light soy sauce
1.5 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp ground ginger powder
3 scallion stalks (minced finely)
2 scallion stalks (minced finely)
2 tbsp ginger (grated finely)
3 tsp cooking oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1. Dice up your fish fillets into small pieces, and chop scallions finely. In a large bowl, add fish, scallions, egg, soy sauce, white pepper powder, and corn starch and sesame oil. Slowly add water, and mix until well incorporated.
2. Once the filling is done, get your dumpling wrappers out. Lightly wet the edge of your wrapper with water and place 1 tbsp of fish filling in the center of your wrapper. Then, you'll want to fold the wrapper in half to enclose the filling. Press the edge with your fingers so that it's sealed tightly. Click here to see how you can fold dumplings in 5 different ways!
3. Cook the dumplings by boiling them or steaming them, about 7 minutes. You'll know it's cooked if it's floating in the water at the top and completely opaque (not translucent). The white meat of the fish will also be opaque and easy to fork apart.
4. While the dumplings are cooking, make your dipping sauce! Cook the cooking oil until it's hot and then add the grated ginger and scallion. If you like spicy, add in some sliced red chili peppers as well for that extra kick. Once fragrant, put the mixture into a bowl and add soy sauce and sugar, mix. You can also ladle hot seafood broth, chicken soup, or dashi soup over the dumplings before serving. Here, I used store bought dashi soup base. And that's it!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! Because I like spicy food, I tend to add the red chili pepper and red chili oil into my dipping sauce too 😁 Enjoy as is, or add it to a meal of noodles, which also represent longevity in Chinese culture!
Just a girl, her husband and two dogs who love food ♥❤🐶👫🐶❤♥