Diddle, diddle, dumpling: A Chinese New Year recipe

Every year as Chinese New Year approaches, I get the urge to try to make my own dumplings.

After all, we’ve watched YeYe make them in the cartoon Ni Hao, Kai-lan. How hard could it be?

Then I’d look for a recipe, read through an intimidating list of ingredients or instructions, and give up before I even started.

This year, though, I happened to run across this recipe for Chinese pork and chive dumplings, which looked relatively easy.

So Daniel and I made a trip to one of the local Asian supermarkets, where he tried to talk me into buying cactus leaves, and I invited my sister Treasa to come to our house to help.

We picked a night when we weren’t entertaining, and the only people I needed to impress were our two preschoolers.

And so we chopped, as Leo came in to sneak pieces of the Chinese chives off the plate. “Hot and spicy!” he’d say, and then take another.

The hardest part was kneading the dough for 20-25 minutes.

That’s when I was particularly happy that Treasa was here to help.

We made two long snakes of dough and let them rest under a moist towel. 

We cut pieces off and rolled them out.

As soon as the rolling pin made its appearance, Daniel popped into the kitchen, as I knew he would.

He helped roll out one or two and then vanished. I could have predicted that, too.
We filled and folded them.

Then we marveled that they looked astonishingly like dumplings. 

We dropped them into a pot of boiling water and watched them rise to the top.

We scooped them out too early at first, and the meat wasn’t fully cooked. We’re such novices.

So we popped them back in. And they came out smelling and looking wonderful. 

We only had to call the boys once and they were at the table, ready for a taste.

Their verdict? They loved them. They wanted them for breakfast again the next morning, and we had more than a few leftover.

“You know, we made these dumplings ourselves,” I told the boys as they dug into a pile of homemade dumplings for breakfast.

“Yes,” said Leo, dipping his in black vinegar and taking another bite. “I know. I saw Aunt Treasa rolling the dough.”

That’s how life works. You may doubt you’ll be able to pull off a complicated recipe, but your 5-year-old has absolute faith in you—or in your sister.

No wonder his brother thought I could do something with those cactus leaves.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.