This Chinese New Year we welcome the year of the monkey. I read in several places that this is considered one of the unluckiest years in the Chinese calendar. Being a scientist, I had to ask why, and the only explanation I could find is that it is considered unlucky only for people born in a monkey year. And further, every year is unlucky for the people born in the corresponding Chinese zodiac year and they should take extra care to guard against bad luck for that time.
So if you were born in the lunar years starting in 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944 or 1932; then perhaps you should take care to guard against bad monkey luck. Some key ways to do this is to stay disciplined at work, to avoid boasting about wealth, and to pay special attention to your health, especially with regards to traffic accidents and food safety.
On the subject of food safety, not many food writers would be brave enough to write a story about vomit. Although, this story is more about heroism and how No1 saved the day than it is about anything gross.
No4 has a history of carsickness, and we have become rather adept at pulling over at those words “I feel sick”. Usually a little walk outside the car and some fresh air does the trick. A few weeks ago, we were driving to the beach early on a Sunday morning. It was a fairly normal Australian day, nice and hot early in the day and we wanted to get to the beach before the crowds. We’d been in the car for perhaps 40 minutes and were less than 500m from our destination when we heard the cry from the back seat. “I feel sick.” Bismarck called out from the driver’s seat, “Just look out the window, we are nearly there.”
They were words of doom. A minute later, that familiar noise and smell filled the car. I turned around from the front passenger seat to see the tail end of an absolute hero moment from No1. The second that No4 started her little spew, he whipped his favourite hat off his head and held it in front of her, catching every single drop. He sat there holding the hat full of vomit with a scrunched up look on his face. Everyone else wound down the windows and tried to breathe some air. “Can you just pull over?” I said to Bismarck who was continuing to drive with a concentrated look on his face. Like everyone else, I had moved closer to the window and was leaning (almost) out of it in order to stay clear of the smell. “We are almost there,” he said, and it was true. We pulled into the carpark and everyone leapt out.
“You can clean it up,” I said to Bismarck, a little mad that he hadn’t stopped. He jumped out of his seat, took the hat from No1 and used a towel to clean up No4. Once that was done, and the hat was emptied out into the bush nearby, he rolled the hat up inside the towel and left it under the car on the passenger side. It was a good plan, as we didn’t want the stink inside the car, getting slowly hotter as we had fun at the beach. No4, typical of car sickness, recovered quickly and was soon leaping waves with everyone else. The hero of the story, No1, was congratulated on his quick thinking and reassured that his hat could be washed and would be returned to its previous state of wearability. The only odd part of this story was that when we arrived back at the car, after a lovely few hours at the beach, we discovered that a kindly person had unwrapped the towel and placed the towel and hat on a rock to dry. I’m not sure what they were hoping to achieve with that – or in fact, why on earth anyone would dream of investigating a smelly wet towel that was underneath a car. The mind boggles. And the only thing it did achieve was to dry out the offending upchuck so that it took three washes, and a good soak in napisan before the hat was again wearable.
This story is now retold by Bismarck with much hilarity. “And you all were hanging out the windows, panting, and I just kept on driving.” Laughs aside, it was the quick thinking, hat swinging moment from No1 that will always be my favourite part of this story. And now for an awkward switch into recipe mode. No1 also enjoys helping in the kitchen, and the Chinese New Year dumplings, known as Jiaozi dumplings are perfect for him to help with. The name includes the word ‘jia’ which is the same as the word for home. These dumplings are usually made by the whole family at times of celebration, with the idea being that everyone lines up in a production line to create them together.
- 2 packets of store bought pre-made wrappers (60)
- 500g pork mince
- Half a wombok (Chinese cabbage)
- 1 portobello mushroom
- 3 spring onions
- A small piece of Ginger (grated)
- 2 tsp Soy sauce
- 1 tsp Oyster sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
- Pinch salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Half a wombok (Chinese cabbage)
- Chinese broccoli
- Oyster sauce
Dipping sauce (not hot)
- ¼ cup Soy sauce
- 2 tsp Sesame oil
- 1 tsp Grated ginger
- ½ tsp Honey
Put the wrappers to one side.
To make the filling, finely chop the wombok and put it in a bowl with the salt for 15 minutes. Once it has relaxed, squeeze out the moisture. Finely chop the spring onions and mushroom. Throw all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.
To make the dumplings, take one wrapper and place a teaspoon of the mixed ingredients in the middle. Wet your finger and run the water around the edge of the dumpling wrapper (this will help the edges stick together). Fold the wrapper in half, then use your fingers to make small pleats along the edge until the dumpling is sealed. Note: if you want lucky dumplings, make sure there are lots of pleats, and the dumpling can stand up. If it is too flat, it is lacking in prosperity.
Once the dumplings are created, fill a wok about one-quarter full with water and bring to the boil over a high heat. While it is heating up, line the base of your steamer with baking paper. Arrange the dumplings in the steamer ensuring two things – they are not in a circle (as that represents a life that goes in circles) and that they are only one layer deep (ie don’t put them on top of each other).
Once the water is boiling, place the steamer over the wok. Make sure the base of the steamer doesn’t touch the water. Steam the dumplings for 15 minutes until cooked. Depending on how big your steamer is, and how many people you are feeding, you might have to do this several times.
To make the vegetable side, slice the remaining wombok and the broccoli into long pieces with leaves at one end and stalk at the other. Steam quickly until just wilted then top with oyster sauce.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients and stir.
I also used XO sauce as a second dipping sauce for those in the family who like a little chili heat.