Thursday, January 16, 2014

There Ain't No Party Like a Dumpling Party Because a Dumpling Party Is Chengdu-licious

(Yes, I went there. What of it?)

Light rain began trickling down as I was walking around one of the old quarters of Chengdu. Only a few tourists like me were out today braving the wet winter cold of the usually gloomy capital of Sichuan in Southwest China. I did not want to leave yet but the rain was making things impossible to walk around, much less take a decent photo. So I resolved to make my way back to the hostel.

I made the right decision.

China: Chengdu
I want to go to there.

I walked through the hostel's reception, to the common room, and thought I had stumbled into the kitchen instead. A few tables were lined up forming one long one. On top were bowls of veggie and meat paste surrounded by rolling pins and flour (on the plate and on the table itself). At the end of the row of tables were two of the hostel's staff vigorously kneading two large chunks of white dough. I had just walked into one of Chengdu Lazybones Hostel's "infamous" dumpling parties.

My kind of party.

China: Chengdu
Knead that dough. Work that dough.

The hostel's staff working on the dough beckoned me and a couple of other hostel guests to come over and replace them. Eager to work on anything that has to do with food, I hurried over and began working it, pounding it, and kneading it.

Having more hands and arms on the dough certainly helped and soon, the dough was ready. Guests took their seats around the table and began making dumplings. Grab a golf ball-sized piece of dough, roll it flat, lay on a filling of veggie or meat paste (your call), and close the whole thing to form a shape similar to that of an empanada or pasty.

China: Chengdu
Kneading the dough was tougher than I thought.

China: Chengdu
Hard at work. That is dedication to dumpling, people.

China: Chengdu

In the middle of all that dumpling-making, and chatting, and laughing at our horrid creations, the hostel staff made an announcement. The most creative-looking dumpling, they said, will win a drink from the hostel bar. Just then, something clicked in my brain.

A creativity contest using food and we get to win something? I'm in!

(The truth was, being the overly competitive person that I was, the prize did not matter. I just wanted to win.)

I cut one big piece of dough, made a cylindrical shape, flattened it, and filled it with meat paste. I then held three fingers up and pointed them down towards the table to ask the hostel staff for a fork. I knew full well that in China, fork was not a common eating utensil, much less a kitchen instrument. Fortunately, they do have forks here, so I used it and started making spiny indentations along the top part of my dumpling. Perhaps hoping to top it when they see it, fellow hostel guests sitting beside me eagerly anticipated my obra maestra.

I created an aquatic dinosaur.

China: Chengdu
I call it "xiao diny." I am proud of that.

In the end, I did win the contest. Score! There were a couple of other winners, of course, but I like to think we all won that day. The dumpling party broke the ice, so that by the end of the evening, we all stayed in the communal table having a few drinks. Also, because succulent dumplings in garlicky, peppery, and soy-saucy dipping. I mean?!

China: Chengdu
A happy dumpling maker, if you were ever to see one.

China: Chengdu

Would you enjoy a dumpling party? If so, let's be friends.

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