Dumpling and Christmas (3)

previously on Dumpling and Christmas: (1), (2)

Physics in dumpling stuffing making

stirring dumping stuffing

My little sister, Annie, stirring the dumpling stuffing

When you minced the meat and vegetable and want to mix them together, every experienced dumpling maker will give you the same tips: stir it in only one direction, don’t revise. Otherwise the stuffing won’t stick together.

Do you know why?

The stickiness comes from the protein molecule in the meat. The protein are long, chain-like molecules. When you stir the stuffing in one direction, you are unfolding the molecules into strings. They will then tangle with each other to give you the stickiness feeling.

If you stir in clockwise for a while and change to counterclockwise for a while, you will fold the protein molecules into ball-like form.

wool balls

wool balls will not tangle

tangled wool - cat's hell

tangled wool – cat’s hell

Let’s put it this way: imagine the protein molecules as wool threads. If you wind the threads into balls or yarns, they will remain separated.

tangled wool - cat's heaven

tangled wool – cat’s heaven

But if you let the threads stay as loose strings and put some together, well, they call it Cat’s heaven, or hell.

Now, exactly the same thing happens on a microscopy level with the protein molecules.

So, remember to keep stirring your stuffing in only one direction, to make a molecule-tangling-sticky-delicious-dumpling-stuffing, and enjoy the meal!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! 🙂


Dumpling and Christmas (2)

previously on Dumpling and Christmas: (1)

Different cooking philosophy

Here comes the interesting differences between Chinese cooking and Western cooking. When we came to US, my wife and I were amazed by the similarity of baking a cake and doing a chemistry lab.

Chemistry Lab

Historical photo of the Chemistry Lab on Quehanna Site Facility

1950 Retro Home Ec Mrs. Perfect Baking Cakes

1950 Retro Home Ec Mrs. Perfect Baking Cakes

Every step involves calculation and measurements. The result can be strictly predicted and reproduced. When we go out for dinner with our American friends, a sentence I noticed is “hmmm, this is exactly the taste I was looking for.” You see, this sentence implies that western culture believes that cooking is like a science. When you create a delicious dish, you can optimize the recipe and it should be reproducible.

Now let me tell you what my mom taught me about dough making for dumplings: first, the amount of

flour for dumpling making

flour for dumpling making

flour needed is based on the number of dumplings you want to make or the number of guests you have, this is calculated. 500 g flour can make about 80 to 90 dumplings. Here comes the tricky part: no body gives the precious amount of water you need. Some recipe says the amount water is about half weight of the flour. My mom says just take a bowl of water and add little by little while mixing and kneading.

kneading the dough for dumpling

kneading the dough for dumpling

Until you feel the “force” is right, stop adding water and let the dough “awake” for half an hour and then knead it again. The Chinese way of cooking always involves “insincere” (拿捏). Chinese don’t look for an “exact” taste every time. Chinese wants a perfect taste fits the mood of that moment. To Chinese people, cooking is more like an art than a science.

A kindly reminder: please, please remember to clean up your nails and wash your hands thoroughly before touching the dough. 🙂

To be continued, tomorrow 8 pm, Dumpling and Christmas (3) 

Dumpling and Christmas (1)

Celebrate Christmas with Chinese dumpling making party


A delicious dumpling

Christmas in United States

Christmas in United States

Dumpling is an world-wide food. Christmas is a widely observed western holiday.

In Chinese tradition, dumpling (Jiao Zi) is a food for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Around the world, Christmas is associated with the coming of a new year.

As a Chinese living in United States, I am always trying to find a mixing experience of the two cultures. This year, we celebrated the Christmas in a traditional Chinese way: dumpling hand making party.

Geometrically, dumpling can be defined as an object with a grounded meet/vegetable core surrounded by a dough envelop. Topologically, it is the same as Chinese Bun (包子), Wonton (馄饨) and Tangyuan (汤圆).

So, to make dumplings, we need both dough and the stuffing.

To be continued, tomorrow 8 pm, Dumpling and Christmas (2) 

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