Qingming, 4th April this year, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Ancestors' Day, is usually a sign of the early spring. At this time of year, the sweet taste of spring becomes a must-have for local people.
In the traditional Chinese diet, every season has its corresponding seasonal food according to their ingredients, tastes and meanings. When it comes to Qingming, green dumplings (in Chinese, "Qingtuan") is the one. Nowadays, these beautiful little green balls can be seen everywhere in the markets or street stalls around Nanjing.
Green dumplings are originally from the areas of Zhejiang and Jiangsu and are especially popular in the southern part of China. The tradition of eating green dumplings can be traced back to Tang dynasty. The very essence of green dumpling is Chinese mugwort; the plant that Chinese usually use as a flavuoring and colorant for seasonal dishes. With the coming of spring, when all the mugwort greens over night, people shall take the greenest and freshest and squeeze their juice, mix it with glutinous rice flour and wrap it with different fillings; the spring snack is in your hand. Originally, green dumpling is used for ancestor worship but as time goes by, it has already become a snack symbolic of spring.
Like other seasonal traditional Chinese snacks, green dumplings have become synonymous with the spring season. Nowdays, we can buy green dumpling in almost every market in Nanjing. Besides, there are even several places in Nanjing providing tasty homemade green dumplings, such as some small shops in Jimingsi and Fuzimiao. These homemade green dumplings are especially popular among the youth and some of them are given as gifts during Qingming festival. Last week, we visited several of these popular handmade green dumpling shops and found it even more diverse and popular than we thought.
1. 舌尖上的青团 A Bite of Green Dumpling
Address: 4-2 Huiyuan Street, Jinxiufang, Qinhuai District
A family from Yixing opened this little shop about two years ago. They combine the traditional Yixing pastry methods with Nanjinger’s tastes, providing homemade green dumplings every day. All kinds of popular flavours are available; bean paste, peanut, sesame, shrimp with vegetables, egg yolk with pork floss and pine nut, and so on. Except for the most popular one; egg yolk with pork floss and pine nut flavour (¥5 each), other flavours are just ¥3 each. Their handmade green dumpling taste just as fresh as the spring grass and the fillings are the most diverse among all these shops. Though not easy to find, A Bite of Green Dumpling is quite popular. According to the owner, they sell thousands of green dumplings a day and some customers are even from other cities.
2. 莲湖糕团店 Lianhu Traditional Pastry Shop
Address: 26 Gongyuan West Street (Fuzimiao Pedestrain Street), Qinhuai District
A traditional pastry shop with a long history, which, compared to above, only has two flavours; bean paste and sesame. However, besides serving green dumplings, Lianhu Traditional Pastry Shop is also famous for its traditional Suzhou style pastry; those colourful traditional pastries such as Qianceng cake and Mati cake. Though just a small stall among the streets of Fuzimiao, it attracts loads of customers everyday, especially old Nanjingers. Their green dumpling taste soft and moist and best when still warm. Each is priced at ¥8 while production quantity each day is limited.
3. 鸡鸣寺素食部 Jiming Temple vegetarian shop
Address: 1 Jimingsi Road, Xuanwu (outside Jiming Temple)
Another famous green dumpling shop with an old name in Nanjing is the one outside Jiming Temple. After visiting the famous temple and taking in the spring bloom, it’s a great idea to pick up a box of green dumplings. Apart from green dumplings, there are all the other kinds of pastries, such as Ruyi cake and Jixiang cake, meaning luck and happiness. From ¥20-40 yuan for a box, these collections of colorful pastry are the best gifts during spring time.
Chinese people believe that mugwort can bring good luck and with its green essence in the little balls, green dumplings are one of the first glances at the new spring. With the fresh fragrance that is already in the air, don’t you want to have a bite of spring?