Sunday, January 26, 2014

Meet the Jiaozi Empress

You in America think the holidays are long gone, but we here in China feel the anticipatory air all around us: China is getting ready for its biggest show on earth, the celebration of the new year.

It'll start Thursday evening and last for six million hours, as 19 million of Beijing's 22 million citizens set off fireworks, starting at midnight Thursday. These are factual numbers. Look it up.

We decided, this year, that if you can't beat them, join them. So we're hosting a party on Friday night, and, thanks to friend Betsy, the apartment is decorated with red lanterns and silken red chili peppers. I'm not sure of the reason for the chili peppers except that they're red, although it's also possible Betsy was re-purposing them from a Cinco de Mayo party.

Speaking of re-purposing, China is not a country to let festive decorations go to waste, so at least one locale has taken the traditional Christmas tree and made it into something else.

And we Americans have invited a good portion of Beijing to a party at our house to celebrate this festival. We'll have Americans, Chinese, Swedes, Finns, Austrians, Australians, Indians, Filipinos, Russians, South Africans, Dutch, and even Canadians.

And addition to my usual go-to party fare, I'm making vegetarian jiaozi, or dumplings. It's easy to buy the wrapping part, jiaozi pi, or dumpling skin. And I found a delicious recipe for vegetarian dumplings online, so on Saturday, I bought all the veggies -- mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, onion, chives -- and cooked them to a small mound.

Then I spooned a bit into each round, pinched the edges shut, and voila, I had tiny little jiaozi that looked like cute stegosaurus backs, all ready for freezing. I am no longer the Ravioli Queen. I am the Jiaozi Empress.

I'm starting to think that my bad winter is taking a turn for the better, although of course there's no telling when there's another disaster on the horizon. I don't want to be guilty of counting my jiaozi before they're steamed.

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