3 Chinese Foods That Put Me in a Holiday Mood

What do the holidays taste like to you? Growing up, I would have said things like cranberry, gingerbread and all of the chocolates in my Advent calendar. But ever since I married a Chinese man, I’ve come to also associate many of his foods with the most wonderful time of the year.

Here are three Chinese foods guaranteed to put me in a holiday mood:

By 我乃野云鹤 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58911328

#1: Dumplings (Jiaozi)

For years, when my husband and I spent Christmas together in the US, it just wasn’t the holidays without having a dumpling-making party. Whether it was with several friends or just the two of us, we would spend a long evening, sometimes even Christmas Eve, folding up mountains of handmade dumplings, also known as jiaozi. My favorite filling is still tofu and pickled vegetables (including kimchi — yum!).

So if you put a stack of jiaozi dumpling wrappers before me, along with a heaping bowl of filling, it immediately puts me in a holiday mood. Especially when you’re able to share the experience with friends.

Why not try it yourself? A dumpling-making party could become one of your favorite holiday traditions. To get started, here’s one recipe for vegetarian jiaozi dumplings (http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/09/vegetable-dumplings/) and one for meat jiaozi dumplings (http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-chinese-jiaozi-leeks-and-pork/)

sesame balls#2: Sesame balls (Maqiu)

On the winter solstice, my husband’s family always has a huge family dinner, along with a huge helping of homemade sesame balls or maqiu. It was years before I actually tried one. But once I did, I found these treats, made of sticky rice dough coated in fragrant roasted black sesame seeds and sugar, a delicious and simple holiday treat.

They’re one of the easiest things to make — you just need glutinous rice flour, sesame seeds and sugar. If you’re intrigued, check out this recipe I have for sesame balls, along with the story about how I used to confuse them with tangyuan for years! (https://www.speakingofchina.com/china-articles/mistaken-winter-solstice-family-recipe-tangyuan/)

laba porridge

#3: Laba porridge

During last month of the lunar year, it’s tradition in many parts of China (including where my husband’s family lives) to have a bowl of this colorful porridge. I first tried it in early 2014 and immediately fell in love with the sweet, rich flavors of all the “treasures” within the porridge — which could include everything from dates and goji berries to peanuts and lotus seeds. With all the eye-catching fruits and nuts hidden within this porridge, it kind of reminds me of fruitcake, another holiday food back in the West. Except, unlike fruitcake, you don’t have all of that dread or the associated jokes.

If you’re tired of fruitcake and looking for a festive new dish to serve during the holidays, consider laba porridge. Here’s one recipe: http://www.healthy-chinese-recipe.com/laba-porridge-recipe.html

What are your favorite holiday foods?

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6 Replies to “3 Chinese Foods That Put Me in a Holiday Mood”

  1. Yes, for sesame balls and vegetable dumplings.
    I have a few places near where I live where the hot & sour soup, dumplings and such taste just like in Shanghai. ???? Getting authentic Taiwanese food, however, is much harder to find.

  2. In Romania, pork is the traditional type of meat to eat – and it is cooked in many different ways, and everything is eaten, including feet, intestines, brain, fat [i mean JUST the fat with skin still attached and raw, with paprika, garlic, pepper, and even mustard (or all together, lol), skin [just the skin, eaten with mustard?].

    The most popular dishes are meat-jelly [jelly with meat in it, served with mustard and maybe pickles. meat must be pork, though other meats are also accepted], cabbage rolls [filled with pork meat, mixed with some rice and condiments, served with polenta], and Oliver’s salad [a fancy? salad from Russia, made with boiled potatoes, carrots, pickles, peas, beef, chicken or no meat, mayo, and i forgot what else lol]. As dessert, we eat a type of panettone called “cozonac” and we traditionally drink red wine.

    Happy holidays to all readers of this blog, and its author too! [family included 😉 ]

    1. Thank you for sharing, Charly! It’s interesting to learn about the holiday foods in your country — that Oliver’s salad actually sounds kind of appealing. I might have to try making something like that!

      Happy holidays to you too!

  3. Great post. Ditto on the dumpling party! It’s such a great way to do the family feast. Although, oddly, this is something I only do when I visit friends and family back home. In China, my friends all buy frozen dumplings at the grocery store, or they eat the ones their grannies make at home, where the kitchen seems to be strictly off-limits to anyone under the age of 40. I’ve never seen anyone my age make a dumpling in China.

    It’s been 5 years now since I had Christmas at home in Canada. I think if I went home for Christmas, I would feel very amiss without my traditional Christmas hot pot! What could be more festive than having friends and family gathered around a warm stove with a big bubbling pot of soup on top, all cooking and eating together at the same time? This, to me, is far preferable to the fussy, labor-intensive turkey-and-trimmings dinner that requires one or two people to slave away in the kitchen all day while everyone else just waits to eat. It’s also much more vegetarian-friendly, and the cleanup is minimal. Pro tip: add a couple of cinnamon sticks and slices of ginger to make a hot pot that smells like Christmas!

    Also, although they’re available all year in China, I am especially partial to Chinese roasted chestnuts around Christmastime. They’re such a rare treat back home – I think I’ve only had chestnuts once or twice in Canada, and it feels weird to be singing carols about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” like it’s a time-honored family tradition. In that sense, I feel like China gives me a more authentic Christmas experience.

    Last but not least, don’t forget the fresh, local mandarin oranges! In Canada, we’d wait all year for the imported Chinese mandarins to hit their rock-bottom winter prices, and then we’d stock up and eat them by the case. All through December, our kitchen’s fruit bowl would be kept full of mandarin oranges. Mandarin oranges were also traditional stocking stuffers in my family, and every year we’d have them for breakfast while opening our presents on Christmas morning. Our Christmas dinner table always had a heaping bowl of mandarins for dessert. Now that I’m in China, the mandarin orange tradition is even better, with fresher, juicier mandarins than I could ever get at home. I love going to my local fruit shop and trying all the different varieties. I had no idea there were so many types of oranges before, and I love that they’re all local and not shipped from halfway around the world. I’ve taken advantage of the local abundance of cloves and mini mandarins to teach my Chinese friends how to make Christmas pomanders. It’s a quaint little handicraft that they seem to enjoy.

    Happy holidays to Jocelyn and all the fellow readers!

    1. Dear Carrie, thank you so much for the lovely and very detailed comment! I really enjoyed reading ideas for holiday foods with Chinese characteristics. Holiday hot pot is a terrific idea! Chestnuts too…they are lovely and very delicious, and as you said it’s so hard to often find them in our respective countries (even though they are usually a holiday tradition). And yes, mandarin oranges, very much a Christmas tradition in many parts! I recall mnay Christmas Eves at my grandma’s house enjoying those oranges.

      Happy holidays to you too Carrie!

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