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Another Year Passes: Bring on the Year of the Dog!

Year of the Dog

(Image designed by Freepik, edited by KristaG)

As we transition from the Year of the Rooster to the Year of the Dog, I get to yet again try my hand at making Chinese food from scratch! Now, yes, I could go and save time by going to one of our many international markets or even going so far as to stop by my favorite little dim sum place down town, but I really like getting my hands dirty and learning new culinary techniques as I explore other cultures through their food. I will, however, still be picking up some lucky red envelopes (a.k.a. Hongbao) to pass out to friends and coworkers to wish them luck and prosperity for the new year. Much like last year, I will be hosting an event at my home to usher in the new year that will include food and gaming (this year’s featured board game is Tao Long: The Way of the Dragon) with my friends!

Some of my all time favorite Chinese foods include baozi (steam buns), jiaozi (pot stickers), and shumai (dumplings). All three of these dishes can be cooked in one of two ways – either pan-fried or steamed. Each method has their merits, but they also taste very different from one another. I prefer to use the steamer method and use either a bamboo or metal steamer basket. To keep these items from sticking, I tend to line the bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves and use a simple non-stick cooking spray on my metal steamer basket. These items are inclined to want to stick so making sure you have a liner is crucial – there have been numerous times where I’ve not covered the steamer as well as I’d thought and the bottom of my dumplings or buns separated themselves and all of my fillings have fallen out!

Pork Baozi

They’re not the prettiest, but they held together and taste great!

This year, I’m making baozi because they are easy to handle finger foods which will make them great for using as a snack while gaming. If you know you’re going to be busy that day, the filling can actually be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator overnight, which can cut down on preparation time the day of your event! Though there are many options available for fillings, I chose to stick with a classic pork filling from one of my grandmother’s collection as it’s one of my favorites and is fairly easy to prepare (I’m not sure where she got it from as I received it on a handwritten piece of paper). I’ve also done a chicken and scallions filling as well as a shrimp and bok choy filling in the past. These buns can also be filled with red bean paste or other sweet fillings to make them more like a dessert. I love them because they’re so versatile.

Bao

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ½ cups lukewarm water

4 cups all purpose flour, with extra for rolling

Preparation instructions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water.
  2. Add the flour 1 cup at a time and knead until smooth; about 15 minutes (this can also be done with an electric mixer with a dough hook).
  3. The dough should be soft and not too firm. If it feels dry, add a little more water.
  4. Cover dough and allow to rise; usually about an hour (rise times vary based on kitchen conditions).

Barbecue Pork Filling

2 lb pork shoulder roast

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 Tablespoon mien see (bean sauce)

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

3 Tablespoons 100 proof whiskey (this can also be substituted for Chinese Cooking wine, if preferred)

3 Tablespoons honey/molasses (I prefer honey due to its lighter flavor)

2 teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (available for purchase here if you don’t want to make your own)

1 star anise (optional)

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan. Cook over low heat until mixture is smooth; stirring constantly; about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Rinse pork with water and drain. Cut pork into ½-inch – 1-inch thick slices lengthwise.
  4. Pour sauce over pork. Marinade pork in sauce; minimum of 2 hours.
  5. Arrange pork on a rack. Bake pork for 40-60 minutes; 20-30 minutes for each side. Cook times will be determined by how thick the pork was sliced. Save leftover marinade.
  6. Remove pork from oven and allow to cool before slicing into ½-inch – 1-inch cubes.
  7. Heat wok with 2 Tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir fry pork for 1 minute. Add remaining marinade and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Bao Assembly Instructions:

  1. Once the dough has finished rising, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes to ensure all air pockets are gone. Roll the dough into a long tube. Rip off chunks of dough and roll into golf ball-sized dough balls.
  2. Take each dough ball and, with a tapered rolling pin, roll from the edge towards the center. Do not roll over the center of the dough too much! The goal is to have dough circle with flattened edges and a thick center.
  3. Place 1 ½ Tablespoons of filling in the center of each disk.
  4. Place the dough in the palm of your hand while using the other hand to carefully fold and pleat the edges together at the top to form a closed bun (see photo to know what they should look like).
  5. Once assembled, allow your pork buns to rest for 15-20 minutes before freezing or cooking.
  6. Place steamer over cold water in a shallow pan. Carefully fill the steamer with buns. Cover steamer and set heat to Medium. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Buns should be springy when touched, not soft or doughy. Over-steaming can cause buns to collapse so keep a close eye on them.
Hong Kong Milk Tea

Hong Kong Milk Tea! This can be served hot or over ice.

Traditionally for Chinese New Year, there is tons of alcohol being served – usually wine! As there is no legal drinking age in China, even children will have a sip or two. Following the etiquette and drinking customs, there are wines that are traditionally drank by the children during the festivities before the adults can partake of it (tusu wine and jiao wine)! Many of these wines are white wines, but there are also quite a few reds and some imported rice wines to be found as well. Looking for beers? Tsingtao is one of the most popular ones! I, however, prefer a different Chinese beer: Lucky Buddha Enlightened Beer from Lucky Brewing Co. Since I will be working at night, though, I’ve also decided to make a few milk teas for myself (and for the kids as there is a legal drinking age here!). Traditional milk tea can take hours to prepare, but thanks to Golden Moon Tea, there’s a quick and easy way to make it at home as well!

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Carnation Evaporated Milk

Sugar

3 teaspoons loose English Breakfast Tea

1 egg shell

1 cup water

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Put loose tea into a pot with the eggshell and water.
  2. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 6 minutes. This will intentionally over-steep the tea.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for approx. 3 minutes.
  4. Fill your cup about 1/3 of the way with evaporated milk.
  5. Bring tea back to a boil.
  6. Pour the tea through a strainer and into the cup.
  7. Add sugar to taste and serve.

As for dessert, one of my friends is providing us with almond cookies and some fortune cookies! We all wanted to make sure we stuck with foods that could be kept around board games so I stayed away from the traditional soups, hot pot, and other amazing foods that are served during these celebrations. From my home to yours, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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