14 February 2010

We Celebrate Chinese New Year with Won Ton Soup

Won Ton Soup
Today is Valentines' Day and if you look really closely and use your imagination you will see hearts in this dish also. It just so happens that both Valentines Day and Chinese New Year fall on the same day this year which makes it doubly lucky!!! To celebrate I decided to make a delicious won ton soup....the won tons may look like hearts depending on how you fold them and how good your imagination is:D. Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the longest and most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. Because of cyclical lunar dating, the first day of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. The origin of Chinese New Year is in itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián). Nien would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. From then on, Nien never came to the village again.

This year Chinese New Year falls on February 14th on the Western calendar. It is the Year of the Tiger with it's association to bravery. On the Chinese calendar, 2010 is Lunar Year 4708. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of these celebrations is the Lantern Festival, which is an evening celebration with lantern displays where children may carry lanterns in a sea of lanterns for the parade.

Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how we behave and what we believe in the most throughout the year. The Chinese New Year tradition is a great way to reconcile with friends and family while forgetting old grudges, and wishing peace and happiness for everyone. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a delicious feast with friends and family ending with the lighting of firecrackers.  Early the next morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes.

 There are certain customs and superstitions that many Chinese adhere to during the New Year festival. I found it interesting to read about some of the superstitions followed on Chinese New Year.
  • Exploding firecrackers on Chinese New Year's Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the new.  
  • On the stroke of midnight, every door and window in the house has to be opened to allow the old year to go out.  
  • Many people also abstain from eating meat on the first day of Chinese New Year festival because it is believed that this will ensure a long and happy life. 
  • Some may eat a whole fish which represents togetherness and abundance, or a chicken with its head and feet intact, which symbolizes prosperity.  
  • Any noodles in your bowl should be left uncut, as a sign of long life.  
  • Plants and flowers also play a significant role in symbolizing rebirth and new growth. A home is thought to be lucky if a plant blooms on New Year's Day, as this foretells the start of a prosperous year.  
  • Another Chinese superstition is that the entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of theroom, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family members away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.  
  • All debts had to be paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year.  
  • Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Negative terms and the number 4, sounding like the word for death, are not to be uttered. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo.  
  • References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.  
  • If you cry on New Year's Day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not chastised less they cry.  
  • On New Year's Day, one should not wash hair because it would mean that good luck for the New Year could be washed away.  
  • Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright, happy colour, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year.  
  • Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune.  
  • The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds or red-coloured birds or swallows.  
  • Do not use knives or scissors on New Year's Day as this may cut off fortune.
To celebrate the New Year I decided to make a simple won ton soup. The name won ton means swallowing a cloud, and the wonton floating in this popular soup are thought to resemble clouds....little heart shaped clouds...can you see them?

 For some helpful tips for keeping your won ton soup true to form see this article Anatomy of a Good Won Ton Soup. It will explain why you should boil your won tons and the broth separately.

Have a safe and happy Chinese New Year and Valentines's Day!!!!!!!!

**Won-Ton Soup**

 1 lb. ground meat (pork, chicken, or turkey) or 1 block firm tofu
8 oz. chopped frozen spinach, blanched or steamed, water pressed out
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 knob fresh ginger (about 1 inch long), chopped
4 scallions (spring onions), chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package premade wonton wrappers (about 50 wrappers)

Place the wonton ingredients (except for the wrappers) in a food processor and blitz briefly, just until mixed. Scrape filling into a bowl.

Put a little water into a small bowl. Place 1 tsp. filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Dip your forefinger in the water and trace a line along two sides of the wrapper; fold into a triangle and seal. Place a bit more water on the two long corners of the triangle and press together into a tortellini-like twist. (It’s OK if these aren’t beautiful; they’ll cook just fine in the broth so long as the filling is sealed inside.) Place the finished wonton on a baking sheet. Repeat until all of the wrappers are gone; freeze the remaining filling for another wonton day.

 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 scallions (spring onions), chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
(1 1/2 cups sliced napa cabbage,1/4 cup julienne canned water chestnuts,1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms,1 cup snap pea pods - ends trimmed) - optional

 Heat 3 quarts. of water to boiling in a large pot. Add the won-tons you are using and cover. (At this  point you can add sliced napa cabbage, julienned water chentnuts, sliced fresh mushrooms,or sliced sugar spap peas).  Once the water is boiling again, cook for about 4 minutes or until the won tons rise to the surface. Remove with a long-handled strainer and drain. Discard the water. Set aside won-tons and vegetables if using.

Bring the broth to a simmer in a large saucepan. Toss in the scallions, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Carefully put wontons into the broth (about 6 to 8 per person), also add vegetables if using and stir to prevent the wontons from sticking to the pan. Simmer until the wontons float. Serve hot, with more sesame oil and soy sauce at the table.

 It’s not traditional, but adding some miso paste to the broth makes for a richer-tasting soup.

 Variation: Instead of simmering the wontons in broth, fry them until brown and bubbly in about an inch of hot peanut oil and serve as an appetizer, with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar (black rice or rice wine is good), and a little chile oil.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Is very good compliments...I love Chinese food...bye...Luciana

  2. This was fascinating! I think I'm going to print this out and give it to my kids to read-we'll make the soup together. Thank you!!
    xoxo Pattie

  3. Chinese food tastes so great! What a wonderful soup!



  4. Great job, Val! I really enjoyed reading the customs/superstitions and your wontons look great.

  5. Last night we celebrated the Chinese New Year from my Paris home - having lived in China for 5 years I never miss this opportunity to remember the good time we had.

  6. no knives, eh? better plan ahead and chop those scallions the day before! :)

  7. Loved reading all of the superstitions

  8. what an interesting post - i love those traditions and their significance

    your wontons look fabulous too - i love these little pouches

  9. What a terrific post. Very interesting. And the soup looks awesome as well. Happy New Year and Happy Valentine's Day to you Val!

  10. Homemade wonton soup...yum.

  11. Love wonton soup! This is perfect for Chinese New Year!

  12. Warm and homey. Perfect for the snowy days across the country (which seems to be anywhere except Los Angeles right now).

  13. I have always been reluctant to try making won ton soup. but you have once again made it looks so easy.....
    I enjoyed reading all the facts about the Chinese New Year.

  14. We celebrated our with all the noodle recipes that we can get also with all the dumpling recipes! We had a great time! Happy Chinese New Year!

  15. here in france chinese food is very popular !!thaks for your won ton recipe!!cheers de paris Pierre

  16. This is so delicious,love the pic and presenation of it..Great share..

  17. Wow - that's a lot of interesting background and info to Chinese New Year!

    Love the wontons, love the soup - I must get me to my nearest Chinese restaurant, I think!

  18. I love the background information you provided with your recipe. Your photos are gorgeous and your directions for making wontons are perfect. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  19. Homemade won tons? *bows down with reverence*

  20. I bet this was delicious!!

  21. Great recipe Valli! :)
    I wouldn't mind big portion of this soup today... It's freezing here in North London and I forgot to close the door to my yard for the whole day, now my room has temperature of the freezer.

  22. I love won tons.. and I love having wrappers in my refrigerator for recipes just like this! yumm.. Thanks for sharing!

  23. They do look like little hearts. How cute. Great directions on making wontons.

    I didn't know you weren't supposed to cry on New Years. That's interesting.

  24. Very good dexterity in making the dumplings. I love soups and this is another I should start making.

    Kung-hey fat-CHOY!

  25. awesome soup and great and fun post thanks for sharing the history love it

  26. Thanks so much for the great information about Chinese New Year. And of course for this wonderful soup. I always make wontons with ground turkey or chicken.

  27. Such a fun and informative post! I read this aloud to my kids. They just finished studying China at school and my daughter is taking Chinese for her foreign language class this year.

    I didn't know about the meaning of Won Ton soup. :)

  28. What a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading about the customs and superstitions, reminds me of my grandmother. Traditions are so important. Your won ton soup looks delicious.

  29. There is so much to learn about Chinese New Year. I like their nice decorations. This soup is look good.

  30. It's been years since I've had WonTon soup - I love it. I may just have to make it.... I could do most of your list - but open the windows at midnight - in this miserable, cold, freezing weather? I think not... Even the dogs would have protested that one....
    And I'll happily leave my dust alone for 14 days ;-))

  31. Love the soup.
    A really interesting post and full of superstitions I had never come across before.

  32. Fascinating post! Thanks for all the Chinese New Year tid-bits. I always learn something on your site.

    I've never been brave enough to make my own won-tons. Gotta try it this year!

  33. Mmmm...I love won tons. Little packets of happiness. As we know, I'm lazy and just ball up the unwrapped meat in my soup! ;-)

    I was thinking of one of my favorite stories as a child. It was a book called Hai Yim the Dragon girl. It was about a girl who was born on the Year of the Dragon and longed for fame. The year of the dragon was coming again and for lantern day, she created a beautiful dragon lantern. Your post brought that back to me!

  34. I really should make won ton soup from scratch - it seems like a basic enough kind of recipe and anything homemade is always better.

  35. I love when people do the unexpected like this - celebrating a holiday other than the one everyone else is. And love all the information. And you make one heck of a fabulous wonton! Yum!

  36. Oh Val, I have such a taste for some good won ton soup, I never made it before, always order it out, but you've inspired me to give it a try. Can't wait!


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