I was explaining the significance and purpose behind red envelopes to my favorite little nuggets. Lauren started discussing the different kinds of candy she would purchase with her monetary allowance and proceeded to dish out a series of expert karate chops as if to emphasize her resolute intent. Then Kate, the resident techie (who is also all of three years old), piped up, “If I get money, I’m going to buy an iPad so I don’t have to share with anyone.”

I had stashed a 2 mil bill (about 50 cents) in each li shi, so someone was about to be severely disappointed in this Year of the Snake.

Hosting and cooking for a boisterous group of eleven is no joke, but the sweat and hours of prep were worth getting to share cultural traditions–ones that I find more ingrained in me than ever the longer I live away from my family–with a whole different world. And for someone who doesn’t love Chinese food by any stretch, I must say I was surprised at what I managed to produce…and in my minimal Paraguayan kitchen no less.

Gong hay fat choi! Xing nian kuai le! Happy Chinese New Year from Asuncion!

Chinese New Year 002The kids’ table.

Chinese New Year 008Nuggets all dressed up in their traditional garb.

Chinese New Year 009Goobers.

Chinese New Year 003The full spread.

Chinese New Year 006Saucy noodles.

Chinese New Year 007Dumplings and chong you bing.

Chinese New Year 005Dan tats for dessert!

Dance, Dance, Baby.

April 21, 2012

This happened. Seriously.

This little dumpling showed up at the new Dance Academy we started at church today. I could barely contain myself.

Seriously.

Yesterday, I got to share Chinese New Year with my favorite little missionary chums. To say that it was a cultural lesson for this family originally from the South is an understatement. Josiah kept poking his potsticker and saying, “I bited somefing hard in that” (the crispy, crunchy, best part bottom!). And when I explained eating uncut noodles for long life, Caleb, whose noodles were chopped to smithereens looked at me and asked with wide eyes, “Does this mean I’m going to die before I get to third grade? But we have a talent show this year!”

The kids also got a kick out of the Zodiac calendar and their animals, immediately pitting themselves against each other. Caleb, a monkey, told Josiah, “I’m going to throw down a banana peel so you will slip.” Josiah the pig replied, “Well, well…::SNORT::” I only wish I had red envelopes with me to complete the experience (I gave them Slinky’s, hackysacks, and bubbles instead. Ha. This is how we do in Paraguay.)

Here are a few pictures of our unorthodox-ish celebration:

My honorary Chinese family.

Not exactly traditional, but it is what I can make. Of the ingredients available in this country.

My little friends (see that sheen? I’m totally sweating buckets).

Lauren scarfed down several helpings of my food and then proceeded to cram down all the oranges at the table as well. There are many reasons why Lauren’s are awesome. This is one of them.

The following conversation took place at the meat counter of my local grocery store.

Lo: Can I get 1 kilo of ground pork, please?

Meat Man: We don’t have ground pork.

Lo: Okay, can you weigh out 1 kilo of that ::points at cheapest cut of pork without a bone:: and grind it for me?

Meat Man: We don’t have a grinder.

Lo: Do you have ground beef?

Meat Man: Yes.

Lo: How does that come to the store?

Meat Man: We grind it here.

Lo: …

I suppose it was a losing battle from the start. After all, it is Paraguay (sorry for the string of bitter-laced entries. I’m not having a great month).

In any case, I was thus forced to test out my mom’s dumpling recipe without the juicy ground pork. And…well, there is a reason we use ground pork. The beef dumpling wasn’t terrible but definitely on the drier side, despite having tripled the sesame oil addition. [Side note: Next time, if still saddled with beef, I think I’ll stick with making cheeseburger dumplings, which are actually quite tasty.] But all told, the results were nontheless nothing a good drenching in red vinegar and chili paste could not solve.

Happy Chinese New Year! I hope the Year of the Dragon brings you health, wealth, happiness, and good fortune at the meat counter!

Dumplings
Skins:

2½ cups of flour
½ cup boiling water
¼ cup cold water
1 T. oil

Mix together and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes. Roll out in logs, cut, ad make dumpling skins. Makes about 50.

Filling:

1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp. finely grated ginger
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 c. chopped/blanched napa cabbage
1-2 finely chopped green onions

Mix together, add 1/4 c. chicken broth, and mix until smooth.