Zandie effortlessly pops the entire clove of garlic into her mouth. It’s Chinese New Year and we’re bao-ing dumplings to celebrate, as per new year’s eve tradition. The garlic clove just finished its swim in a shallow dish of shaoxing wine vinegar, but the pungency is still there. This is the traditional way people eat dumplings in Dongbei – Beijing and other colder parts of China.
I’m pleating the dumplings, though to be honest, the end result is kind of fugly, because my hands aren’t used to folding the skins in (or is it out?). I spoon sticky shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, grainy eggs and tomatoes, viscous pork and chives into each floured lump, run a dripping finger of dumpling water over the edges, and reach down to fold another.
In front of us are the garlic cloves, black vinegar, soy sauce, and la jiao for the brave. I reach for the la jiao.
On day six of Chinese New Year, D and I make tacos. Not the traditional fare of Chinese Near Year, but nonetheless an essential component of our diet. I salt and dice cucumbers beforehand to use as garnish, another non-traditional addition, because I think I’ve been in China for too long. The cucumbers crunch against the char of the caramelized onions – not quite caramelized because I am impatient and caramelizing onions takes time.
We don’t own metal utensils, because I shop at IKEA, and so I use my fingers to pick the warmed tortillas off the gas grill. We bao the tacos, stuffing them with salmon, cheddar cheese, onion, cucumber, and tomato salsa. One taco down.
I reach for another.