One of my new classes invited me to their dumpling party to celebrate the New Years. Eating dumplings and noodles is tradition to bring luck to the new year. As students don’t have a kitchen at their disposal they rented one to use at a nearby restaurant. It was my first time to have full run of a kitchen and interesting for me to see how things are laid out.
I walked into the restaurant a little late to find my students already eagerly stuffing the dumplings. They had prepared the fillings earlier. One was pork with veggies, one was celery and cabbage with a little meat and the third was a mushroom mixture.
They made over 300 dumplings for a group of about 25. I made a few myself under the watchful eye of one student who was a dumpling master and made these beautiful designs out of the wrappers.
Helen, another teacher who is from Xinjiang, a region in northwest China, made these special Xinjiang noodles.
She prepped them at home and coiled them into strands for easy transportation. But I thought it looked quite beautiful.
At the restaurant each strand was carefully removed, then stretched a little too make the noodles thinner and longer.
Then each strand was wrapped around her hands and pulled and stretched, and banged on the table to make really long, thin strings. These noodles are called la mian, or hand pulled noodles.
Then the laoban, or boss, cooked the noodles in boiling water. He cooked them quickly, no more than a minute, and immediately threw them in a bowl of cold water. (Which you can see at the bottom of the picture.)
Then the teacher got a new wok and added some meat, veggies and a variety of seasonings and oils which were in these stainless steel containers next to the cooking area.
Then she threw in the noodles, fried it for a minute, then it was ready to go. The students attacked the bowl of noodles like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. Luckily, because I was taking pictures, I was close to the bowl and got one of the first servings. Since the weather was nice, me and a few students went outside to enjoy our lunch.
Then, of course, there was the dumplings to deal with. The laoban cooked them up in batches, boiling them for a few minutes then immediately serving them.
Then a few students made some of their hometown’s special dishes to share.
There was plenty of food for everyone, and even way too many dumplings for the group to eat. At one point, when I was sitting stuffed, unable to eat more, I heard screams coming from the kitchen. I ran in to the students watching the laoban chop up a frog for someone else’s dinner, it’s legs still twitching on the chopping block. I took that as my cue to leave and get ready to celebrate New Years Eve with friends in Hangzhou. While I had my fill of lucky dumplings for the new year, the frog wasn’t as lucky as the rest of us!