In honor of the Lunar New Year, we are excited to share two traditional Chinese holiday recipes from Cindy Zhu!
As Accountant for Blue Pacific’s US operations, Cindy lives and works in Los Angeles, but will always call her birthplace of Beijing, China home. In China, families usually go home to spend the holiday together, but due to Covid-19 few will be able to travel this year. To stay connected during this important Chinese holiday, Cindy will be making her family’s favorite foods and celebrating virtually with her long distance loved ones.
“On New Year’s Eve we have a big feast!” Cindy shares. “We continue eating from New Year’s Eve to the fifth day of the New Year.” This year the Lunar New Year’s Eve falls on February 11th, which means celebrations in the United States will extend over Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend, too. That coincidence could make for some very tasty cross-cultural flavor combinations!
Cindy shares her recipes for Pork Dumplings and Pineapple Fried Rice, two of her favorite holiday dishes. “It’s tradition to eat dumplings!” she says. “Chinese families eat dumplings at 12:00 midnight on New Year’s Eve. The round shape of the dumpling symbolizes the family circle.” Many of the foods enjoyed on Chinese New Year have symbolic meaning that, when combined with delicious flavor, create lasting memories.
Cindy’s recipe for Pineapple Rice features several traditional Chinese ingredients, including longan fruit and lotus seed. Longan, similar to its cousins lychee and rambutan, is a tropical fruit from the soapberry tree. Longan translates to “dragon eye” as the translucent, jellied flesh and black pit resemble an eyeball when the fruit is peeled. It has a musky, sweet, tropical flavor, similar to but less aromatic than the lychee. Although it is delicious eaten fresh, longan fruits are often dried and used in Asian recipes to add fruit flavor and chewy texture. If you cannot find dried longan, golden raisins are a convenient substitute.
Lotus seeds are harvested from the flowering plant of the same name and are a delicacy enjoyed across Asia. The seeds have a nutty, green almond flavor and a mildly sweet taste. If you’ve ever had a Chinese Moon Cake, you’ve tasted this exceptional seed! There is no real substitute for lotus seed, but if you are in a pinch pine nuts or cashews are acceptable stand-ins due to their mild nutty flavor and soft meaty texture.
Learn more about Chinese New Year food and flavor traditions in our Lunar New Year blog post! Thank you Cindy for sharing your holiday flavor memories – and these authentic Chinese recipes – with us.
- 2/3 lb. ground pork (leg meat)
- 6 dried Chinese black mushrooms
- 1/4 c. chopped green onion
- 1 tbsp. minced ginger root
- 3 tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Dash each white pepper, rice wine, and Maggi sauce
- 2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. boiling water
Ginger Vinegar Dipping Sauce
- 2 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. minced ginger root
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- Dash salt
- Dash sesame oil
Soak the mushrooms in warm water until soft; drain and mince. Mix mushrooms with the rest of the filling ingredients, kneading until mixture reaches a paste-like consistency. Form into a loaf or log, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze filling for 1-2 hours or until partially frozen.
Meanwhile, mix dough ingredients in bowl or food processor. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Divide into 35 equally-sized portions. Roll each piece of dough thin and wrap one tablespoon of filling in each by pinching the edges together to form a “purse.”
Line a steamer with parchment paper to prevent the dumplings from sticking. Arrange the dumplings in a single layer in the steamer and steam over high heat for 6 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batches.
In a small bowl, mix together the dipping sauce ingredients. Serve dumplings hot with hot sauce, sesame oil, and ginger vinegar dipping sauce.
Yield: 35 dumplings
- 1 whole pineapple
- 1 c. glutinous (mochi) rice
- 1 1/3 oz. dried longans
- 1/2 c. candied lotus seeds
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. peanut oil
Slice the pineapple in half. Hollow the pineapple meat out of each half to create two bowls. Set pineapple bowls aside and retain pineapple meat for garnish or dessert.
Rinse the rice. Add 3/4 cup water and steam 15-20 minutes or until done.
Wash the dried longans and soak in warm water until soft. Remove from water.
Mix the longans, lotus seeds, sugar, and peanut oil with the cooked rice. Stuff rice mixture into the hollowed out pineapple halves. Place stuffed pineapples in a steamer and steam over high heat for 40 minutes. Remove from the steamer and serve with pineapple fruit for garnish.
Yield: 4-6 servings
For a recipe for Yunnan-Style Pineapple Rice (and tips on how to carve and cook the pineapple bowls), please visit Omnivore’s Cookbook.
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