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At the Kitchen Table: 02/15/2011

Year of the Rabbit

Chinese New Year or Chinese Lunar New Year, as it is often called, is one of the most important holidays in Chinese and other Asian cultures. It is centuries old and celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, and Chinatowns worldwide.

This year, “The Year of the Rabbit,” is considered a particularly peaceful year, unlike those before and after which are known for their global unrest (tiger and dragon). The animal traits are thought to give power and strength to those born under its signs. Rabbits are talented, virtuous, reserved, and kind. They are also thought to be popular, compassionate and sincere, with luck coming to them unbidden. The New Year is celebrated not just for the sign under which it falls; it is also a time that brings reconciliation, peace and happiness for everyone.

Families take this time to thoroughly clean their homes, to sweep away any misfortune and make way for good fortune to come their way. Traditional red paper cut outs with themes of happiness, wealth, and longevity are repeated in windows and doorways. The color red symbolizes fire, which drives away bad luck. There is a saying, “Nian Gao,” which means higher year – a little more, a little better for the coming in year.

The New Year is the time to give thanks and show gratitude for the good things in life. That includes the delicious New Year’s foods like lobster, filet mignon, duck, and a whole fish. The fish is served whole, representing “head to toe,” or a good beginning and a good end. In fact, the Chinese character for fish is the same as the Chinese character for abundance. Every dish in the New Year’s meal symbolizes health, long life and prosperity.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Chinese New Year without dumplings. Some families place a coin inside one of the dumplings, and whoever gets it is supposed to have the most luck for the year. The evening ends with firecrackers to scare bad spirits away. The next morning, children greet their family with well wishes for good health and a Happy New Year.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Dragon Dumplings

(Makes about 30 dumplings.)

These little dumplings are so versatile. They can be made ahead and frozen, used in soup or as a main dish, ravioli-style with a cilantro pesto, or as an appetizer with a toothpick for easy pick up. Feel free to season to your liking by adding more or less jalapeno.

1 tsp jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

1 TBS cilantro, chopped

2 TBS fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 TBS garlic, finely chopped

cup rock shrimp, finely chopped

2 cups Aidell’s raw chicken apple sausage (Check with your grocer for uncased sausage. It’s easier than taking it out of the casings.)

1 package round wonton wrappers (also called Sue Gow wrappers)

In a medium skillet, saut the jalapeno pepper, cilantro, ginger and garlic, for just a few minutes. Let cool. In a medium mixing bowl, add the raw chicken apple sausage, the rock shrimp, and the sauted jalapeno mix. Stir until it is incorporated well, but not overly mixed. Take about a level teaspoon of the dumpling mixture and put it in the center of the dumpling. Moisten the rim of the round wonton wrapper and fold the dumpling in half. Place one finger on the center and pull up both triangular sides, while adding a bit of water to the tips so they stick together. It should look something like two arms coming together at the palms. Put the finished dumplings on a baking sheet with parchment and when completed, put the whole tray in the freezer. After they are frozen, the dumplings are easy to handle and you can scoop them up and put them in a Ziploc bag. They take 5-7 minutes to cook through, either by dropping into water, putting into a hot skillet with a little oil (pot sticker style) or dropping into a soup.

Tricia O’Brien is a Glen Ellen resident, caterer and food blogger. You can follow her at

Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at
Email: tobcaters@gmailcom

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