Jiao Zi in Spring Chinese Festival
Since the Spring Festival marks the first day of a brand new year, the first meal is rather important. People from north and south have different habits of the food they eat on this special day. In Northern China, people usually eat Jiao Zi (or dumpling) which is shaped like a crescent moon. It is said that dumplings were first known in China some 1,600 years ago. The Chinese pronunciation of Jiao Zi means midnight or the end and the beginning of time. According to historical records, in ancient times people from both north and south ate dumplings on Chinese New Year's Day. Perhaps because Southern China produced more rice than any other areas, gradually, southerners had more other choices on New Year's Day.
The shape of Jiao Zi resembles that of ancient gold and silver ingots or a crescent moon, and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty. In some places, people stuff Jiao Zi with sugar to wish for a sweet life; others put one or two clean coins in Jiao Zi -- the person who finds the coin would make a lot of money in the coming year; if you happen to come across one with a coin inside, it means you will enjoy good luck.
Many families in China usually prepare enough Jiao Zi to last several days during the Spring Festival. To make Jiao Zi, first of all, you should chop the meat into tiny pieces and mash them, then add salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and Chinese cabbage if you like. Mix thoroughly the ingredients and meat filling, and then add two spoonful of water if necessary.
In a big bowl, add water to flour gradually. Mix and knead by hand to soft dough, then cover it with towel and put it aside for about an hour. Scatter some dry flour on the board, knead and roll it into a sausage-like dough about 5 centimeters in diameter, then chop it into small pieces. Press each piece with your hand and get a pancake. Finally, you should hold the pancake with your palm and put the filling in the center and wrap it into half-moon shaped and seal the edges.
Put the dumplings into boiling water, when it is well cooked, it is ready to be served. However, before eating, you need to prepare some small dishes to contain the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil or pepper oil to suit your own taste.
In addition to Jiao Zi, the most common foods for Spring Festival are Nian Gao (or New Year Cakes) and Yuan Xiao, a kind of round sweet dumplings made partly or wholly of glutinous rice flour served in soup.