People from the north and south have different traditional foods that they eat on this special day.
In Northern China, people usually eat jiaozi (or dumplings), which are shaped like crescent moons. It is said that dumplings were first cooked in China some 1,600 years ago.
The Chinese pronunciation of jiaozi means midnight or the end and the beginning of time.
According to historical records, in ancient times people from both north and south ate dumplings on Chinese New Year's Day.
Perhaps because Southern China produced more rice than any other areas, gradually, southerners had more food choices on New Year's Day.
The shape of jiaozi resembles that of ancient gold and silver ingots or a crescent moon, and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty.
In some places, people stuff jiaozi with sugar to wish for a sweet life; others put one or two clean coins in jiaozi -- if you happen to come across one with a coin inside, it means you will enjoy good luck in the coming year.
Many families in China prepare enough jiaozi to last several days during the Spring Festival.
Filling: 1 lb. ground pork (or beef) / 6 t. sesame oil / 2 t. sugar / 0.75 t. salt / 0.25 t. pepper / 0.25 lb. cabbage / 1 t. salt / 0.25 lb. chopped green onions
Skin: 3 c. flour / 0.75 c. cold water / 0.5 c. flour (to prevent sticking during kneading)
1. Filling: Mix ground pork, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper well. Chop cabbage until fine. Mix the cabbage with 1 t. salt and let sit for 10 minutes; squeeze out the excess water. Mix the cabbage, ground pork, and green onions well.
2. Skin: In a bowl, add water to the flour and knead into smooth dough; let it stand for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a long baton-like roll and cut it into 50 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece to a thin circle.
3. Place 1 portion of filling in the center of a dough circle. Fold the circle in half and moisten the edges with water. Use index finger and thumb to bring the sides together. Pleat one edge while keeping the other edge smooth. The smooth edge will conform to the decreased length of the pleated edge. Pinch the pleats together then pinch to seal. Repeat procedure for the other dumplings.
4. Boil 10 cups of water and add dumplings; stir to prevent dumplings from sticking together. Bring to a boil; turn the heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Remove. When serving, use vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, hot bean paste, etc. as dipping sauces.
(China.org.cn February 13, 2007)