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   CCTV.COM   2002-05-13 17:05:46   
    Story of Jiaozi(Dumplings)

    Jiaozi, or dumplings with meat and vegetable fillings, is very popular during the Spring Festival and other festivals. It tops the list of delicacies of people in north China, where people eat jiaozi at midnight on New Year's Eve and for breakfast on New Year's Day.


    The history of jiaozi dates back to ancient times. But the custom of making jiaozi a special dish during the Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, started in the Ming Dynasty, some 500 to 600 years ago. The reason is simple. The appearance of jiaozi looks like the V-shape (some say half-moon shaped)gold or silver ingot used as money in ancient China. As the Spring Festival marks the start of a new year, people choose to eat jiaozi to connote their wishes for good fortune in the new year. Although time has changed, the tradition has remained. But today, jiaozi is considered more as a sign of blessing than of fortune.


    As China is a country with a vast territory, there are great differences in various regions in ways of making jiaozi or even serving it. For example, dumpling wrappers are made with a rolling stick in most areas of Beijing and Hebei Province, whereas in some parts of Shaanxi Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, wrappers are hand-pressed.

    There is no set rule as to what makes dumpling fillings. They can be anything from vegetables, meat to seafood. Whatever the fillings, the wrapping skill needs to be exquisite to make jiaozi look attractive. Ways of serving jiaozi also vary from place to place.

    Generally, dumplings are boiled in clear water and served dry with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic or pepper oil if one likes them hot. In some parts of the Northeast China, however, dumplings are boiled in broth together with vermicelli made from bean starch, and served together.

    People in Henan and Shanxi provinces like to boil jiaozi with noodles and serve them together. They name the serving " golden threads piercing through silver ingots,"or " silver threads stringing together calabash". Golden or silver threads mean noodles while silver ingots and calabash refer to jiaozi. There are also places where people boil and serve jiaozi with sheet jell made from bean or potato starch, or with sweet dumplings, special for the Lantern Festival on the 15th of the first lunar month.

    The Process of Making Jiaozi

    Many families in China usually prepare enough jiaozi to last several days during the Spring Festival time. To make jiaozi, first of all, you should chop the meat into tiny pieces and mash them, then add salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, Chinese cabbage and MSG if you like. Mix thoroughly the ingredients and meat filling, add two spoonful of water if necessary.

    In a big bowl, add water to flour gradually. (caution: not too much at a time!) Mix and knead by hand to soft dough, then cover it with towel and put it aside for about an hour. Scatter some dry flour on the board, knead and roll it into a sausage-like dough about 5 centimeters in diameter, then chop it into small pieces. Press each piece with your hand and get a pancake. Finally, you should hold the pancake with your palm and put the filling in the center and wrap it into half-moon shaped and seal the edges.

    The next step is to eat. Put the dumplings into boiling water, when it is well cooked, it is ready to be served. However, before eating, you need to prepare some small dishes to contain the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil or pepper oil ( to suit your own taste!)


    Probably the fun of eating jiaozi lies not only in the delicacy itself but also in the process of preparing for it: everybody, the host and guests alike, would roll up his sleeves and wrap the pancake to cover the fillings. What fun!As time advances, the ancient food has been continuously updated, not only in processing skills, but also in varieties, wrappers and fillings, tastes and appearances. Frozen jiaozi processed on production lines, in particular, is taking a big share of the fast food market. There have been so many varieties of jiaozi that it is no longer a rare scene for restaurants to offer a whole jiaozi banquet, serving up several dozen kinds of dumplings.


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