Gung Hay Fat Choy!


While I love living in the country, there are certain things (mostly foods) I miss and crave from time to time.  One of said things are dim sum Sundays and Chinatown in general. Growing up in Chicago I spent a lot of time in Chinatown.  My family is from the neighboring community of Bridgeport, but most of my parents’ closest friends lived in Chinatown. I have fond memories of running around our family friend’s Chinese gift shop and hiding in huge ceramic pots and hanging out in the smoke-filled cafes while my dad  caught up his police buddies and drank coffee.

My mother is a first generation Chinese-American.  Her father came to the US from Canton (Guangzhou) China.  Unfortunately my grandfather died young and I never met him.  From what I do know, he loved to cook for his family.  My grandmother was an orphan who grew up in Wisconsin during the Great Depression and her culinary skills were pretty limited to say the least. So, my grandfather would cook family meals every day but Sundays.  I wish I had an opportunity to meet him, to learn how to cook authentic Cantonese food, learn more about my culture and where he came from.


Growing up my  mom would cook Chinese meals 50% of the time and I would always standby and watch.  I definitely absorbed a lot observing all those years, but this meal was my first time attempting dumplings.  It’s an odd thing being part Chinese. I’m Chinese enough to have taken my lunch to school in bento boxes (way before they were cool and trendy), eating with chopsticks while my classmates turn their nose at my meal and to have all the Hello Kitty school supplies imaginable before it became mainstream….yet not quite Chinese in the eyes of many.  Either way, I love this part of my heritage, I love the food, and I feel it’s important to share with my niece and nephew.

It was super sweet celebrating with my niece and nephew this year.  My 2 year old nephew was really into the old family photos, going through each photo one by one and pointing out my father, mother, and grandfather in each.  My nearly 4 year old niece was adorable.  While my sister-in-law and I were prepping, she decorated the dining room with the red money envelopes, fans, and confetti. She then asked where the broom was because she had to sweep the house for the New Year.  My brother explained to her earlier that you clean you’re house top to bottom before the New Year, because it’s believed that if you sweep on New Year’s Day your wealth will be swept out too.

It was quite a feast and perhaps a bit ambitious. All week my boyfriend and I were busy prepping dumpling fillings, making dough for dumplings and BBQ sauces while my sister-in-law prepped chicken broth and duck.  By some small miracle we pulled it off and (shocker) it actually tasted legit!  It was all the familiar flavors that I grew up with.  And although there was a rocky part in the evening – see the Har Gau recipe/commentary below – it was really a family meal.  A meal that made MayToy, my mom, proud as i sent her progress pictures throughout the night.   Everybody contributed and played a part.  We prepped side-by-side all day and after a very long day on our feet, sat our aching asses down – eating, sharing, laughing, reminiscing. Gong Hay Fat Choy!


The Menu 

Dim Sum
Sui Mai – (shrimp/pork dumplings in flower basket)
Har Gau – (shrimp dumplings)
Lo Bak Gou – (turnip cakes)
Char Sui – (BBQ Pork)
Peking Duck
Spring Onion Pancakes
Scallions, Cucumbers, Ginger, Carrots
Lap Cheong – (Pork/Duck Sausage)

DIM SUM – Snacks and dumplings that “touch the heart” are traditional Cantonese tea house food. Dim Sum is traditionally a brunch food, and served with tea. The teas are typically black, jasmine or chrysanthemum. Generally other Chinese meals are not served with tea but tea is served after the meal. Dim Sum are not a typical meal served at home. In fact, in China chefs undergo 3 years apprenticeship and 5 more years of “practice” before being able to consider themselves – dim sum chefs.

So why wouldn’t we try to make some for our family meal.

From “The Food of China” Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)


Siu Mai flowers

Filling –
6 oz. prawns
½ cup water chestnuts
1 lb. ground pork
2 tbsp. light soy
1 ½ tbsp. Shaoxing Rice Wine
2 tsp. roasted Sesame Oil
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. corn flour (cornstarch)


30 square egg dumpling wrappers
1 tbsp. shrimp roe
Dipping Sauce – Recipe Below`
—Make the filling—
Peel and devein the prawns. Place in a tea towel afterwards and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Roughly chop prawns.
Place water chestnuts and ground pork in bowl with prawns along with remaining filling ingredients and stir until well combined.
—Make the Dumplings —
Place 1 tbsp. filling in center of dumpling wrapper, gather up all four corners, squeeze dumpling around sides while holding bottom and fold edges around wrapper. (We watched a You Tube Video on making flower basket dumplings)
Place dumplings in steamer, far apart from each other. Place a dollop of shrimp roe in the middle of each dumpling top, and steam for 15-25 minutes.
Place on platter with dipping sauce

From “The Food of China” , Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)

The prep of the har gau was almost a New Year deal breaker for us.  Dinner was at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, so all the items prepped throughout the week were transported there.  So as Murphy’s Law (i really feel like it should just be renamed to Candice’s Law) goes…I forgot the damn wheat starch, a key component to the doug. At my house. An hour away.  Yep.  We googled it and tried to substitute corn starch, but the consistency wasn’t right. I attempted assembling the dumplings for about 30 minutes while my boyfriend continued to rework the dough and “fix” it.  After 3 dumplings that somewhat resembled har gau, i threw in the towel and switched to plan B.  We used some of the remaining wonton wrappers and made a purse dumpling.
1lb. 2 oz. prawns
1 ½ oz. pork fat (we used Mangalitsa pork fat rendered by us!)
1 ½ oz. bamboo shoots, finely chopped
1 spring onion (scallion), finely chopped
1 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. roasted sesame oil
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Wrapper Dough
1 1/3 c. wheat starch
3 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. oil
Dipping Sauce
Soy Sauce
Chili Sauce

Peel and devein prawns and cut ½ of them into 1/2” chunks. Chop remaining until minced. Add all prawns to the bowl, and to that add rest of your filling ingredients. Mix well and drain off the excess liquid.
Add all ingredients in bowl and add 1 cup of boiling water combined well. If dough is too sticky add more wheat starch. Roll dough into cylinder and divide it into 24 pieces. Cover with a damp tea towel. Working one portion at a time, roll out dough with rolling pin into 9-10cm (3 ½ – 4”) rounds between two well-oiled pieces of plastic wrap. Using a cleaver with blade facing away from you press down on dough to squish it down and form circle. (We had a really hard time with this dough. We only managed to get 3 dumplings made and cooked. The next time we make this we will use our pasta maker to roll the dough and cut it with dough cutter to make circles.)
—Make Dumplings—
Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each wrapper and spread water along edge of wrapper and fold wrapper over the edge to make ½ moon shape. Then pleat dumplings (like pinching pie crust) to seal wrapper. Always keep the dough and filled dumplings moist before cooking otherwise your wrappers will get dried out.
Steam dumplings for 6-8 minutes until wrappers are translucent.
Chili Sauce, Soy Sauce or Dipping Sauce

Lo Bak Gau (Turnip Cake)


Turnip Cake Prep

From “The Food of China” , Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)
2 lbs. Chinese Turnips, grated
1 oz. dried shrimp
2 cups dried Chinese Mushrooms (Shitake)
5 ½ oz. Chinese Sausage (lap cheong)
1 tbsp. oil
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. Shaoxing Rice Wine
¼ tsp. ground pepper
2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1 2/3 cups rice flour
Oil for frying
Place grated turnips in large bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve any liquid, then leave turnips to drain in colander. When cool enough, squeeze out rest of moisture by hand. Return to large bowl.
Soak dried shrimp in boiling water for 1 hour to re-hydrate, then drain and add liquid to reserved liquid from turnips.
Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes, then drain, adding soaking liquid to reserved liquid from turnips and shrimp. Squeeze out excess liquid with hand and remove stems and dice caps.
Steam sausage for 10 minutes and then finely dice.
Heat wok over high heat, add the oil and heat until very hot. Add sausage and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add shrimp and mushrooms, cooking for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add spring onions, sugar, rice wine and pepper, then add the turnips, cilantro, and rice flour tossing well. Add 2 cups of reserved liquid and mix well.
Place wok mixture in greased and lined square cake tin and place tin in steamer. Cover and steam for 1 – 1 ½ hours or until firm. Cool and refrigerate overnight.
Take them from tin and cut into 2” squares that are 1/2 “ thick.
Heat wok over high heat, add 2 tbsp. of oil and heat until very hot. Cook the turnip cakes in batches until golden and crispy.
We garnished ours with scallions.


Peking Duck
Adapted from 3 different recipes but made our own glaze. Main recipe we followed was from The Dentist Chef.


When recipes call for “hanging” a duck and you have no means of hanging….improvise.

1 Peking Duck (8lbs.)
3 spring onions
3 cups ginger slices
2 cups water
2 tbsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 ½ cups Shaoxing Rice Wine
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 cup Maltose
1 cup Honey (we used our own honey from our hives…yeah)
3 tsp. red food coloring


The main thing in preparing this is to get your duck really dry to ensure skin is crispy. We washed our duck and then patted it dry and left it open in refrigerator overnight. Then we made the glaze and dried the duck again after it was glazed.
Add 2 cups of water to sauce pan and all Chinese Five Spice, bring to slow boil and boil for 10 minutes. Strain liquid to remove all solids and place liquid back in the sauce pan. Add Rice Wine, Rice Vinegar, Maltose, Honey and Red Food Coloring to pan. I married the flavors for 1 hour and added the honey after tasting it originally. Once the flavors are together, add 1 coarsely chopped spring onion and ½ cup large ginger pieces to sauce pan. I simmered the mixture for another 20-40 minutes after adding ginger and onions to get flavor we wanted. Once the glaze is ready, add the red food coloring.
—Preparing Duck—
The duck needs to hang while you glaze it, and we don’t have clothes line in our kitchen. So, we improvised and used what we had – a Citizen Cider bottle – we placed the bottle up the bird and placed it in the roasting pan for prep. We glazed the duck repeatedly adding mixture over and over again until it looked how we wanted it to and then let it sit (ideally in refrigerated area) for at least 4 – up to 24 hours to dry.
Heat oven to 340 and cook duck for 45 minutes (depending on size) basting with fat drippings every 10 minutes. The duck needs to sit on a rack while roasting to allow entire thing to get crispy. The last 10 minutes of cook time place oven to 400 to crisp skin.
The skin did not fully crisp when duck was done so we used our handy kitchen torch to complete the job.
We served ours with Spring Onion Pancakes (recipe below), Sliced Carrots, Ginger, Cucumbers, Scallions, and Plum Sauce.



Crisping the duck breast.

Spring Onion Pancakes


Prepping Spring Onion Pancakes

From “The Food of China”, Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)
2 cups flour (all-purpose)
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. roasted sesame oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Oil for frying
Place flour and salt in mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the oil and 8 oz. of boiling water and using wooden spoon mix to rough dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. If sticky add flour. Cover the dough with cloth and rest for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface use your hands to roll dough into log roll. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Using small rolling pin, roll out dough into circles (4”circles). Brush surface generously with sesame oil and sprinkle with spring onion. Starting with edge closest to you roll piece into tube and then circle tube around like cinnamon bun. Let dough rest for 20 minutes.
Place each on flat surface and using rolling pin roll out onto pancake form. Leave rest for 20 minutes.


Heat a frying pan over medium heat, brush with oil and add two or three pancakes at a time. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once, until the pancakes are golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately. (You can keep and reheat if wrap in foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes)

Char Sui
From “The Food of China”, Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)
1 tbsp. rock sugar
1 tbsp. yellow bean sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. red fermented tofu
1 tbsp. Brandy
½ tsp roasted sesame oil
1lb 10 oz. pork loin, center cut, trimmed into 8” strips
2 tbsp. honey, dissolved in small amount of water
This dish is iconic in Chinatown, the pieces of pork hang in the windows of almost every Chinese grocery store side by side with Peking Duck and generally families grab pieces of this pre-cooked protein to take home and serve with other accompaniments (noodles, vegetables and rice, pancakes, etc.…)
Combine all ingredients well. Add pork pieces and leave in fridge for 6 hours. (We always use Ziploc baggies to marinade, but recently began experimenting with cryovacked bags because the flavors marry better in the absence of oxygen)
Heat Oven to 425F – add pork pieces to rack inside roasting pan that has broth or water in the bottom. Cook for 10-15 minutes then baste with marinade/drippings in pan. Reduce heat to 350F and cook 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 2-3 minutes, brush with honey and place under broiler for 4-5 minutes to lightly char top.
Cut meat into slices and add ¾ cup of marinade to sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce for 2 minutes and then strain and pour over pork.

Dipping Sauces
From “The Food of China”, Hsiung, Deh-Ta and Nina Simonds (2005 Murdoch Books Pty Lmtd.)
We had never made Dim Sum or Peking Duck and wisely decided to buy some pre-made sauces from our local Chinese grocery store, but the sauces are quite easy to make.  Maybe next time…

Soy and Vinegar Dipping Sauce
½ cup light soy sauce
3 tbsp. Chinese black rice vinegar
Add two ingredients and a few drops of water… Serve
Soy, Vinegar and Chilli Dipping Sauce
½ cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp. Chinese black rice vinegar
2 red chilies, thinly sliced
Mix all 3 ingredients and let sit or serve immediately. This is recommended with Har Gau.
Red Vinegar Dipping Sauce
½ cup Red Rice Vinegar
3 tbsp. shredded ginger
Mix vinegar with 2 ½ tbsp. water and ginger in small bowl, then serve.
Soy, Chili, and Sesame Dipping Sauce
½ cup light soy sauce
2 ½ tbsp. chili oil
1 tbsp. roasted sesame oil
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients and serve. They recommend this with steamed buns.





Words by Candice Alinovich + Beth Willhite

Photos by Candicce Alinovich

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