Monday, February 8, 2016

Celebrating Chinese New Year

We don't do many Chinese cultural traditions around here. I cook Chinese food maybe once a week sometimes not at all in a single week, and when I do, we don't even use chopsticks! Maybe it's a product of being raised here in the US; the cultural traditions become more and more diluted the longer people are away from the origins of those traditions.

Every now and then though, there are occasions that prompt me to bring back some traditions, and be purposeful in sharing them with the kids. I want them to know their heritage and have memories of Chinese traditions, even as a half-Asian.

Most of our closest friends are Asian (is that coincidence? is that my own tendency to lean toward common experiences in choosing my friends? and if so, why doesn't my husband have his own tendency toward Caucasian friends? ), and they are in the same 2nd-generation-boat that we're in...grew up here in the US, sprinkling a few Asian traditions in here and there.  We don't sit around talking about Asian-American issues or send our kids to Chinese school, but we DO like to celebrate Chinese New Year together, reliving fond memories from our own childhoods.

Making dumplings as a group is a memory I specifically wanted to pass down to my kids. I remember family gatherings where my parents and the my aunts and uncles would all work together to make lots and lots of dumplings together. They always asked us to help, and occasionally we did, making funny-shaped dumplings, laughing at our awfully mis-shapen results, and then we'd run off and play with the other kids.  It was like history repeating it self when our group of kids do the same thing...but over the years, they are getting more proficient at making dumplings.

We used's Asian Pork and Cabbage Dumpling Recipe for the filling, and my dad's dough recipe, which is 6 cups flour, 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt (knead together until thoroughly mixed and workable). 

We also had a hot pot, with plenty of meat, fish balls, seafood, and noodles, which is another favorite tradition of mine. 

For dessert, we had a huge assortment of Asian treats-egg tarts, pineapple cake, rice cake ('nian gao') in 2 flavors, almond jello, oranges, and sponge cake (not sure that was specifically Asian, but it's reminiscent of the lighter, fluffier cakes that are common in Chinese bakeries)!