Today is Chap Goh Mei, the 15th and final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. This occasion is celebrated with greater prominence by certain quarters of the Chinese population. In the old days, Chap Goh Mei was equivalent to Valentine’s Day in the cities of the Straits Settlements comprising of Penang, Malacca, and Singapore. The cloistered damsels of rich Peranakan families rode to town in a covered trishaw, safely accompanied by a chaperon to enjoy the festivities.
Apart from exchanging glances with the local boys, there was also the custom for these girls to toss oranges into the ocean as they make their wish for a good match in the future. An urban legend has it that some of the more adventurous guys actually wade out into the ocean to collect the oranges either for eating or audaciously claim the hand of the maiden to toss it. I suppose if there is a will, there is way. This custom continues to this day in the city of Penang.
While Peranakan celebration of Chap Goh Mei does not involve dumplings, they are very much a part of the Chinese New Year offering in other segments of Chinese society. Dumplings symbolizes wealth and so I made Money Bag Dumplings to underscore these good wishes. By coincidence, World on a Plate has also scheduled this month’s theme to be DUMPLINGS. The timing could not have been more perfect!
Dumplings are usually made with pot sticker or wonton wrappers, easily purchased at the Asian grocery stores. These wrappers are made of wheat flour. For a gluten-free option, I use Vietnamese paper rice wrappers instead. They are more delicate and not as sturdy but they do give a nice translucent appearance to the dumplings. They hold up pretty well in smaller dumplings but larger ones like these should be handled gently. Small tears in the wrapping will not be visible once the dumpling is immersed in the soup. Dumplings wrapped in rice wrappers should first be steamed so that the wrapper stays with the filling. Cooking them directly in the soup causes the wrapper to unravel.
Another gluten-free option is to use Napa cabbage as a wrapper. The amount of filling in the recipe below is sufficient for either 4 large Money Bag Dumplings or 8 small Cabbage Rolls. Please double the filling if you intend to do both.
- 4 dried rice wrappers or 8 Napa cabbage leaves, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute
- 4 green onions, blanched in boiling water for 20 seconds
- 3 cups (720ml) chicken stock for soup, seasoned to taste
- A few drops of sesame oil
- Dumpling sauce
- 6 oz (115g) lean ground pork
- 2 Chinese mushrooms, soaked, rinsed, and chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 green onion, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 8 medium sized (3 oz/85g) shrimps, cut into 4 pieces each
Mix all filling ingredients, except shrimp in a bowl. Allow it to marinate for 30 minutes.
Divide filling into 4 equal portions.
Fill a large shallow bowl with warm water. Dip one rice wrapper into warm water and remove quickly. Lay wrapper on a lightly oiled dinner plate cutting board. Rice wrapper will soften.
Place a portion of filling onto dampened rice wrapper. Gather edge of wrapper up around the filling. Tie with blanched green onion. Place onto a lightly oiled plate with shallow bowl or casserole dish. Repeat with the other 3 portions of filling.
Divide filling into 8 equal portions.
Place a portion of filling onto the white edge of a blanched Napa cabbage. Roll cabbage around the filling like a jelly roll. Tie with blanched green onion. Place onto a shallow bowl or casserole dish. Repeat with the other 7 portions of filling.
Fill a large pot with about an inch of water. Place a rack at the base of the pot. Bring water to a boil.
Place dish with dumplings or cabbage rolls on rack. Cover and steam for 10 minutes.
Gently transfer one dumpling or two cabbage rolls with a large serving spoon into individual bowls. Ladle some soup into bowls about half way up the sides of dumplings or cabbage rolls. Add a few drops of sesame oil.
Serve hot with dumpling sauce or soy sauce.
These delicious dumplings make a lovely and impressive appetizer. The huge dumpling need not be transferred to a plate to be cut up for eating. Bite size pieces are cut and scooped up with the spoon together with a little soup.
The cabbage rolls may be cut into halves or thirds for ease of handling.
Do check out the linky below to see what the others have prepared in their kitchens.