As I get older and with each year that passes me by, I’ve begun to notice my parents aging. I still consider them young for their age, but they aren’t as youthful and spry as they once were. They complain of aches and pains that weren’t present before. They have ailments for which they need medicate. They doze off while we watch TV together, just like how they used to complain of their parents doing so while they spent time together. They’re becoming more forgetful. They are slowly being adorned with wrinkles and gray hair. It has made me realize how little I know about my parents.
My partner has been pushing me to document my parents’ life stories, and to also document the recipes that we grew up with. She wants to ensure that we can pass down our family stories to the next generation. You see, I know very little about my family history. I can recall bits and pieces of my parents’ childhood, but not enough to tell a story. It saddens me. I had so many opportunities to spend time with my great grandfather and grandparents to learn more about them and their life in China, but I didn’t. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?
I lost my heritage while desperately immersing myself into Western cultures while growing up as an Asian-American. I didn’t want to be Chinese. I thought I was the ugly duckling next to my non-Asian classmates while in grade school. I wanted to be the blond hair, blue-eyed girl next door. If someone asked me what I was, I’d quickly respond with, “American.” I hated checking the “Asian” box for my ethnicity. I used to always wonder to myself, why did I have to be Chinese? Why me? It just wasn’t fair. I can also recall how I didn’t like to be out in public with my parents because I was so embarrassed by their broken English. Thankfully, this all changed during the mid-90s when Amy Tan came out with The Joy Luck Club that I gained some pride in my nationality.
I realize that it’s not too late to start interviewing my parents and my relatives. I just don’t want to keep procrastinating this project or else it might just be too late. So I’m going to do what my partner suggested, and dedicate a series titled, My Chinese Family. I hope you’ll enjoy the stories and the recipes, as much as I have as a child and still do as an adult.
To start off this series, I wanted to dedicate this post to my Mom. She is my hero. The most influential person in my life. My brother and I are very lucky to have her as our Mom. She’s also an amazing chef… we ALWAYS look forward to Monday night dinners at Mama Chang’s! One of the ultimate comfort foods for me is my Mom’s Chinese chive dumplings with shrimps and scallops. My Mom doesn’t cook with recipes… it’s a little dash of this, and a little dash of that. So it was always hard trying to cook with my Mom when I was growing up. And to this day, it’s still hard because now I’m trying to translate her dashes into measurements :)
Chinese Chive Dumplings (Jiaozi) with Shrimps and Scallops
1 large bunches of Chinese chives, rinsed and drained, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 pounds scallops, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
2 pounds shrimp, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth or water
3 packages pot sticker wraps (or homemade dumpling dough)
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together, except for the Chinese chives. Using a pair of chopsticks, mix the ingredients in ONE direction [This technique allows everything to combine; whereas, if you were to mix in all directions, the mixture would separate, rather than come together. It works because my Mom says so :)] until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes. [Your forearms will certainly get a good workout.] Next, pour in the Chinese chives and mix in one direction for another five minutes until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined. This may sound yucky to some, but take a piece of the Chinese chive and place it in your mouth to test the seasoning. If it seems bland, adjust the seasoning with adding a little extra more salt.
Heat a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. [Trust me, you’ll want to do this ahead of time to get the water to boil faster because you’ll want to eat those dumplings immediately after their wrapped. And besides, you never want to watch a pot to boil water or else it’ll just take longer (or so it seems).]
Prepare a small bowl of water and cut open the pot sticker wraps. Place a small portion (about one heaping tablespoonful or a little more if you are advanced) of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumplings.
As you get down to the last few dumplings to wrap, turn the heat to high to boil the pot of water. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of sesame oil [this helps them to not stick] and half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat. When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time, they are ready. Carefully drain and remove. If desired, they can be pan-fried at this point.
Serve with your favorite Chinese dipping sauces. I love to dip mine with a mixture of soy sauce, white distilled vinegar, and a homemade Chinese XO sauce. Yum.