I’m calling these Protest Dumplings in honor of the immigrants who taught me how to make them. A number of Chinese immigrants arrived in Vermont in the 1990’s and we came to know three wonderful families. I learned to make these Chinese dumplings (or wontons if you serve them in broth) from one of those families. Their English was already quite good, but they were keen to practice their conversation skills, so we often cooked together while we hosted English conversation sessions. One evening, one of the young couples we had met invited us to join them at their home to make dumplings. We all sat together at their tiny kitchen table under bright fluorescent lights rolling handmade dough into small circles and then stuffing them with pork mixture and folding them into little pouches.
As we rolled dumplings, they shared with us their experience in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 student Democracy protests; describing their exuberance and excitement when the marches began and then their terror as troops began firing on the protesters. They described hearing the shots and then being caught in the rush of the crowd as bullets flew by them. Thankfully, they escaped without injury to a new life in a new country, but those experiences marked them forever. They have since moved to a different state and our paths have diverged, but whenever I make these dumplings, I still think of them.
Some of the most warm, resilient and generous people I have come to know have been people who have arrived in our country from China, Vietnam, Somalia, Burundi and Congo, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, a need to escape war or persecution, and the simple desire to create a better life for themselves and their families. Since the early 90’s, I’ve had the honor of getting to know a number of immigrant and refugee families through volunteer work with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, a program that has been welcoming people from war-torn and oppressed countries since 1989. I’ve helped newly arrived families navigate through their unfamiliar environment, find warm clothing, learn how to use the bus system, take their driving test, find affordable groceries and prepare peculiar, new ingredients. As they practiced their English, I sometimes had the opportunity to work on my French. I found familiar flavors and cooking rituals are comforting to families trying to find their way in a new place. Sharing food traditions can help to provide a bridge between cultures and I believe we are all the richer for it. The new Americans I have known have unique and valuable perspectives to share and I’m proud that our state welcomes them.
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 6 scallions, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely shredded
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Pepper to taste
- 1 package wonton wrappers
- Place the pork, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, cilantro and pepper in a small bowl.
- Using a wooden chopstick, mix the ingredients in a clockwise direction until well incorporated.
- Place a wonton wrapper on a clean surface, and paint the edges with a little water.
- Place a teaspoonful of the pork mixture in the middle of the wonton and fold the wrapper over the filling into a triangle, pressing out any air and sealing the edges. Be careful not to overfill.
- With the point side down, press the two ends together, twisting slightly and sealing with a bit of water. The dumpling should look like a little tortellini.
- Repeat until all the pork mixture is used.
- Place all the dumplings in two layers of a bamboo steamer, making sure they don’t touch.
- Cover and place the steamer in a wide skillet of simmering water and steam for approximately 30 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through and the wrappers are tender.
- Serve with dipping sauce.
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Whisk all the ingredients together and pour into small individual bowls for dipping.