Thursday, January 29, 2015

Celebrating Chinese New Years with Jiaozi Dumplings

With Chinese New Years just around the corner (Feb. 19), I have dumplings on my mind... 

In 2012, I shared a post about dumplings  (jiǎozi饺子) and family togetherness on my Rice and Pasta, Please! blog. Since dumplings and spending time with my family are some of my favorites things about the holiday, I decided to share a revised version of the post with you! 

The phrase tuántuán yuán yuán (团团圆圆) is often used to describe Chinese New Year (CNY). It literally means "the family is happy and together" because CNY is a time when families come together--to cook, eat and celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year.  

Making dumplings (jiǎozi) is a wonderful togetherness activity to do with your friends and family during CNY.  The wrapping process can take several hours so it's a great time to 
chat and catch up. 

Although our family's CNY's traditions change from year to year--some years we eat out and 
watch a lion dance, other years we invite friends over for a big Chinese feast--we always 
manage to include at least one jiǎozi-making event into our celebrations

So you want to makejiǎozi at home? Wonderful! 

What you need to know:

1. You can make your own dumpling wrappers. Really. We've rolled out and wrapped jiǎozi 
in homemade wrappers before (made by someone else), but this year, I'd love to make our own homemade wrapper recipe. I'll let you know how it goes!

2. Don't want the hassle of making your own wrappers? No problem! You can buy 
pre-made wrappers (in the freezer section of your local Chinese supermarket). 

-->We use pre-made dumpling wrappers for jiǎozi that are boiled, but prefer the thinner 
       wonton wrappers for dumplings that are fried. It's personal preference really, but just know 
       that there are both types out there.

3. There are infinite ways to wrap jiǎozi--well, maybe not infinite...but a lot! 
-->There is the pleat method. In this technique, each side of the outer wrapper is pleated 
        toward the center. Pleats are then pressed firmly to the bottom wrapper. 

-->There is the fold and crimp method (like a tortellini). Check out Beijing Gourmand's 
        explanation of this one.

-->Feeling creative? Design your own signature fold. Just make sure the seal is tight enough 
       so that the filling won't sneak out when it's tossed into the pot of boiling water.

                             Here are some of our inventions: the stegosaurus and the purse

4.  No matter how you wrap your dumplings, each method requires a little extra moisture 
for a tight seal (this seems especially true with frozen wrappers). Dip your index finger into a 
small bowl of water, and run your finger along the edge before starting to pleat the wrappers.

5Need a recipe for a good filling? I've got you covered. Check out Chinese jiaozi two ways from Madame Huang's Kitchen for beef and pork/shrimp recipes. 

6. Last thing: Chinese dumplings freeze wonderfully (for at least a month).  When you want to use them, just drop them frozen into boiling water (no need to thaw!)

How will you celebrate with family and friends this CNY?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bridge Builder: Chinese Character Review Game

Every time we return from a break from Mandarin lessons, it takes us a few weeks to get the "wheels turning" and remember all the characters/vocab from weeks past.

This week we adapted a vocab review game from Genki English called Island Hopping to review our Chinese characters. I called our game "Bridge Builder."

This is how we played the game:

1. Type or write the Chinese characters you want to review on pieces of paper or notecards. 
  • I chose 24 characters to review and wrote them with a big sharpie on 5X7 notecards.

2. Each player must "build a bridge" from a pre-selected starting line to a finish line by placing the cards down on the ground, one after the other. 
  • We built bridges from one end of the rug to the other. 

3. The cards cannot be placed until the player says the name of the character out loud. 
  • For reference, I let the girls use their Character binders, which contain all of the characters they have learned (pinyin, translation, etc...). 

4. The first player to cross the finish line wins!

When we played the game, I gave each player a stack of different characters, but the game could easily be played using several copies of the same characters (i.e. 4 of each). I'm going to try it this way next time as a way to help the girls quickly recognize and review some of our recent characters. 

Try this out and let me know what you think! 

Was this game an effective way to review Chinese characters? 

Are there other games you play in your home? 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Years! 新年好! Xīnnián hǎo!

Happy 2015! I hope that you had a wonderful holidays with your loved ones. 

Our holiday break began like this:

and this:

but then it started to look like this:

The flu hit us all! But by the time New Years rolled around, we were finally all healthy again, and ready to start thinking about the exciting times ahead of us. 


This past week, I've been exploring some new materials and brainstorming lots of great activities and games to use my kids' Mandarin lessons. I can't wait to share these with you in 2015!

Until then, let me leave with a New Years song: The Happy New Year Song (sung to the tune of "Oh My Darling, Clementine"). It's technically a Chinese New Year's Song--CNY is Thursday, Feb. 19 this year. Put it on your calendar! But we are going to sing it this week because singing is a great way to practice our Mandarin. 

Here are the lyrics:

Click here to download these lyrics for FREE!

And then, watch this video of Learn Chinese with Emma to hear how to sing it. She gives a great explanation of the vocab in the song as well!

Happy New Years to you and your family!

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