Do you ever dream about dumplings? I certainly do.
In fact, just hearing the word “dumpling” makes me happy. It’s the ultimate comfort food and my favorite term of endearment (feel free to call me ‘Dumpling’ any time). 🙂
Whenever you have a meat and vegetable filling wrapped with dough it’s a good thing. Plump, tender, savory, lip-smackingly delicious. Mmmmmm!
Since I’m a big fan of Chinese dumplings in particular, I was especially happy to see Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling from Beijing to Cambridge by Carrie Clickard and Katy Wu (Simon & Schuster, 2017).
Written in rhyming couplets, this delectable new picture book is an absolute delight, a charming introduction to the Chinese-American chef, author, restaurateur, entrepreneur, and TV personality who popularized Northern Chinese and Shanghainese cuisine in America.
1. This lovely poster featuring the words of 14th century Persian poet Hafez by Katie Daisy is available at The Wheatfield Etsy Shop. A nice thought to keep in mind during these crazy times. 🙂
2. Speaking of poets, Kelly Ramsdell Fineman’s very first chapbook, The Universe Comes Knocking (Maverick Duck Press, 2015) will be officially released this Friday, March 13th! There’s a Launch Party at the Daily Grind (48 High Street) in Mount Holly, New Jersey at 7 p.m. Admission is free and there’ll be an open reading afterwards. Check it out if you live in the area! You can read the title poem here. Congratulations, Kelly!
3. It’s no secret we’re big fans of dumplings and dim sum here at Alphabet Soup. LOVE this definitive Guide to Chinese Dumplingscompiled by The Cleaver Quarterly at Lucky Peach. There are cute drawings, mouthwatering descriptions, and interesting historical and cultural tidbits about each type, and they’re grouped according to how they’re cooked: Steamed, Pan-Fried, Deep-Fried, and Boiled. Happy to see pepeiao from Hawai’i on the list, and I learned about a lot of different varieties I didn’t even know existed. Yum! Pass the har gow!
4. It’s also no secret that I like toys (who, me?), so I was happy to stumble upon Zard Apuya’s site recently. Originally from Guam, he now lives in San Francisco where he’s busy designing vinyl toys and pursuing a graduate degree in Business Administration. Check out a few of his charming “kid at art” creations (some available for purchase):
5. Food memoirs are probably my favorite genre to read for pleasure. Here’s a nice list of “The 50 Best Food Memoirs” at AbeBooks. Since I’ve only read 6 of these so far, I’d better get busy!
Once upon a time, I published a picture book called Dumpling Soup, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders:
Every year on New Year’s Eve, my whole family goes to Grandma’s house for dumpling soup. My aunties and uncles and cousins come from all around Oahu. Most of them are Korean, but some are Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, or haole (Hawaiian for white people). Grandma calls our family ‘chop suey,’ which means ‘all mixed up’ in pidgin. I like it that way. So does Grandma. ‘More spice,’ she says.
This year, I celebrated the New Year in Hawai’i for the first time in decades. Thanks to my mom, I got to eat my favorite traditional Korean dishes, and for the first time ever, I got to hear my story read aloud on New Year’s Eve.
My niece Julia wasn’t yet born when the book was first published almost twenty years ago, and she never experienced those big, noisy family gatherings I so fondly recall in the story. But at least she can still eat some of the same food! It was hilarious hearing her trying to pronounce the Korean phrases — but what a wonderful, expressive reader she is, and for a few moments, I was 7 years old again, smack dab in the middle of “so many Yangs!” 🙂
#7 in an eclectic collection of notable noshes to whet your appetite and brighten your day.
So, as I was reading and drooling throughDumpling Days, I came to the part when Pacy’s cousin Clifford explains how you can tell wontons from dumplings — dumplings are shaped like ears.
He tells the story of a very famous Chinese doctor who supposedly invented dumpling soup. Ah! I had never heard this story before and found it not only fascinating, but quite uncanny, as a character in my picture book, Dumpling Soup, thinks dumplings look like elephant ears. Little did I realize the very first “ears” had great medicinal benefits. Totally cool!
STORY OF DUMPLING SOUP
Once there was a famous doctor, Zhang Zhongjing, who lived by the river in a cold part of China. He treated and cured many things, but in the winter, the things he treated most were people’s ears! That sounds strange, I know, but where he lived in China, the winters were particularly cold. The icy wind whipped and burned any exposed skin.
It was so cold that when a villager joked that his breath froze into pieces of ice in the air, all believed him because even if the cold did not freeze one’s breath, it really did freeze people’s ears. The doctor was kept busy during the winters treating frostbitten ears. He knew that people with frostbite needed warmth to heal, so he began to make a remedy that would warm peoples’ insides as well as their outsides. He cooked meat with warming herbs and finely chopped it. Then he wrapped it in thinly rolled dough and boiled the pieces in soup with more herbs. When the mixture was finished, he called it “soup that takes away the cold,” or “qu han jiao er tang.” He then served it to his frostbitten patients, who not only healed quickly, but enjoyed the soup so much that they continued to eat it.
People made the soup at home, usually eating it in the winter. They say the dumpling is the shape it is because it is made to resemble an ear, in honor of Doctor Zhongjing’s treatment of people’s frostbitten ears. The name of the soup, qu han jiao er tang, was shortened to jiao er tang, and the dumplings were eventually called jiaozi.
~ from “Story of Dumpling Soup,” Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012), page 119.
Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 AD) was an eminent physician in the Han Dynasty and is extremely well known in modern Chinese medicine.
He wrote China’s first book (actually 16 volumes worth), combining medical theory with his own experiences as a practitioner, analyzing causes, symptoms and methods of treatment. He recorded some 300 classic prescriptions, many of which are still used today. For his first dumplings he boiled mutton with warming herbs like chili (cayenne), which improved circulation and promoted healing. His “Warming Ear Soup” is traditionally eaten on the nights of Winter Solstice and Lunar New Year’s Eve.