Chinese cuisine has always expressed the spirit and traditions of the people it represents. One particular Chinese dish, the dumpling, has remained a symbol of the Chinese Lunar Celebration. The Chinese dumpling, or Jiaozi, can be prepared in multiple ways – justly representing the diversity of the Chinese people. It is an important tradition on New Year’s Eve for families to gather and prepare dumplings for the celebration. Some families even hide a coin in one of dumplings and whoever gets the dumpling, according to Chinese cultural tradition, will supposedly have good luck in the coming year. The Chinese dumpling is named jiaozi because of its horn shape. Filling mixtures, which could be meat, vegetable, or a combination of both, vary depending on personal tastes and region.
Jiaozi may be boiled, steamed, or pan-fried. The most common type of boiled dumpling is the Shui Jiao. This type of dumpling is a staple food, especially in Northern China. During the Lunar New Year, families in the north are known to designate each step of production to a particular family member. Grandparents generally role out the dumpling skin while the mother minces pork and vegetables for the filling. Meanwhile, the rest of the family pinches the dumplings into crescent-like shapes. Thus, Shui Jiao represents the importance of familial ties in Chinese culture. Another type of boiled dumpling, called the Tang Tuan, is eaten during the Lantern Festival, the last day of Lunar New Year celebrations. The shape of the rice flour ball emphasizes a unified family.
There are multiple variations of steamed dumplings, each type representing the city of its origin. The Xiaolongbao, which consists of cubes of meat aspic and pork filling that are hand-pleated into thin Xialongbao wrappers, represent the city of Nanxiang, a suburb of Shanghai. The dumpling has spread throughout China, and may be found in numerous eateries. Another type of steamed dumpling is the Zheng Jiao, which is filled with a combination of minced meat and vegetables. It is steamed in a bamboo round to retain the fresh flavors of its ingredients. It represents the city of Shaxian in the Fujian province. There are many more variations of the steamed dumpling, containing unique flavors that are reminiscent of its origins. These types of dumplings then spread throughout the entire country. Thus, steamed dumplings represent the diversity of the Chinese people and the spread of its culture.
Fried dumplings are probably the most well known type of Chinese dumplings, a dish that has grown popular not only in China but in other places in the world. The Sheng Jian fried dumpling is fried to crustiness on the bottom. In addition, Guo Tie, or potstickers, has assimilated its way to markets in the United States. These ingot-shaped dumplings are pan-fried for a crispy bottom and steamed to doneness on top. These dumplings symbolize the expansion of Chinese influence. This type of dumpling, as well as steamed dumplings, is also prepared for Chinese Lunar celebrations.
Thus, it is evident that dumplings symbolize the traditions and spirit of the Chinese people. The dumpling is a symbol of celebration and family togetherness. Therefore, it is no wonder that it has remained such an important and influential dish. One has to merely taste this dish to be able to tell who the Chinese people really are.