Xin Nian Kuai Le, Gong Xi Fa Cai! Today we begin the year of the rabbit. May lots of luck and happiness and fortune hop your way! In China at the moment everything is a blur; its that time of year where phone lines get jammed and train prices cost a gazillion yuan and everyone eats until they want to pop and then sit down around the tv to watch the Chinese New Year Gala.
And whilst I've got your attention, this is my all time favourite performance of the galas - the deaf troupe's Thousand Hand Buddha's performance.
I do miss being in China around this time of year, as I have never spent Chinese New Year in actual China, but that’s fine, because I celebrated with some Chinese friends at Uni yesterday. We made dumplings, and as they say: Luck is like having a dumpling fly into your mouth.
Although we didn't having any flying dumplings, a group of my Chinese friends got together last night and made dumplings, and I made fortune cookies. Fortune cookies? Yes, the ones they give you at the end of a chicken chow mein meal in restaurants in Chinatown that say stuff like:
I made my own fortunes for mine, some were nice (most were nice!), some were prophecies (um, mostly nice ones!), some were IOU (i.e. me) drinks, which I hoped wasn't the one I'd end up choosing.
But whilst I was making these, my friends had set up a nice little production line churning out dumplings like there was no tomorrow, and I think that we did a pretty good job!
The classic wine-bottle-come-rolling-pin-combination.
Roll, roll, roll, your dough....
This makes me happy. THIS is what the new year is about!
The um, rejected one. I won't er, name and shame the person who made this.
Hao le! The finished product. If you are lucky enough to have any leftover in the morning/clever enough to have frozen the uncooked dumplings, you can make Gyoza (or You Za, but this probably doesn't mean anything to you, for all you know I could be saying anything from cheese braised dumplings - now that's something to try - to a bit vat of excrement) fried dumplings.
And then comes the fortune cookies. I'm not sure why I suddenly decided to make them, because you have to fold a message inside them whilst they're still hot so that you can fold the cookie over into the half moon shape, meaning you can only make about two at a time, or it cools too quickly.
I started off making the batter, and added lots of red food colouring because a) I had loads left over and b) I felt patriotic.
Finally after I got bored of oohing and aahing over the pretty swirly pattern, I made round shapes on a baking dish, but...
It kind of stuck :( So then I used foil to line the tin instead, which worked out better. It didn't however, stop the cookies from forming small bubbles in the oven, and I had no idea why this was. But it didn't matter, it's the thought that counts anyway. And besides this, I still managed to burn my hands every time I took a cookie out of the oven and started folding it, because I didn't have the sense to use an oven glove. Clearly my fortune should have been: a little bit older, a little bit rounder, but none the wiser.
But anyway, they were made, the dumplings were cooked, and we were fed. We also had fish, a symbol of luck and wealth (I think? That's what it always seems to be with Chinese symbolisation), and then we really *should* have sat round the table and played cards and eaten sunflower seeds. But I went to watch The Black Swan instead. Shame.
A good night had by all!
Lesson learned today: WEAR OVEN GLOVES WHEN TAKING THINGS OUT OF THE OVEN. It should be obvious but I was clearly disorientated from the delicious dumpling soup smell.
Chinese Fortune Cookies
Makes about 15
15 fortunes, handwritten, use your creativity!
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes for batch…you need to allow for about 8 batches
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
60g plain flour
1 tablespoon or cornflour
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons water
Food colouring (optional)
Write fortunes on pieces of paper that are 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Preheat oven to 190C. Grease 2 9-X-13 inch baking sheets.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.
Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.
Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.
Note: if you want to dye the fortune cookies, add the food coloring at this point, stirring it into the batter. I used about a tablespoon for mine.
Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet (start with about two at a time), spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a circle 4 inches in diameter.
Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (about 10 minutes).
Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.