d o c t o r a n d m a m a

Linda Shiue

Linda Shiue
San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
December 31
I am a physician and spend my free time with my husband and kids, reading everything in sight, eating, traveling, and cooking meals inspired by my travels. These days I'm spending more time at my food blog, spiceboxtravels.com. Please visit me there and follow me on Twitter @spiceboxtravels. Disclaimer: Health information presented here is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. © 2010-12 Linda Shiue. All Rights Reserved.

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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 12, 2010 9:21AM

In the Mood for Love, A Vintage Chinese Valentine

Rate: 18 Flag

This February 14th is a day for love.  I'm not only talking about Valentine's Day, a celebration of romantic love.  February 14th is also this year's Chinese (Lunar) New Year, which honors the love of family and friends.  This lucky coincidence led me to recall Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000), a gorgeous rhapsody on love and a maybe-affair, set in 1960's Hong Kong:

Non-Cantonese speakers will need to follow the subtitles, but the translation is not the essence.  The film's slow pace, subtle lighting, prolonged, meaningful looks between the two protagonists, and plaintive instrumental soundtrack speak the universal language of love and longing, no words required.  There are few blockbuster films with Asian romantic leads, but after seeing the gorgeous Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in this film, you'll feel cheated that you haven't seen more of them.  It also captures the forgotten glamour of that era.  Maggie Cheung's wardrobe of restrained but sexy vintage cheongsams will make you long for Chinese couture.  I've been looking for dresses like that ever since first seeing this film a decade ago. A classic song from 1946 by equally glamourous Shanghai singer Zhou Xuan, which was used as the title track, captures the vicissitudes of a long-term relationship:

The years slipped past like flowers...

the vigorous light of the moon

bright, clever as glacier snow

our beautiful life

my affectionate spouse

this happy and fulfilled family...

suddenly gloomy clouds and fog loom across this solitary isle

clouds of gloom and melancholy

Ah, my lovely Motherland

when can I go back into your arms

and see these fogs dispel

and behold you give off light again

as in those flower-like years

and of the moon...

via Wikipedia

Zhou Xuan  

So celebrate this February 14th with the one, or the ones, you love.  In the Mood for Love makes me long for vintage cheongsams, and whets my appetite for Chinese dumplings.  Whether or not you are feeling lucky in love, the Chinese New Year is about fresh starts, luck and fortune.  The foods traditionally eaten on this most significant of Chinese holidays are all symbolic of these.  Make some dumplings, and give yourself little bundles of luck. 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


chinese dumplings by Linda Shiue 


Chinese Dumplings

dumplings symbolize good luck, packaged inside  

Makes 4 dozen.


4 leaves of Chinese (Napa) cabbage

2 scallions

2 chinese dried black mushrooms, soaked in warm water until softened

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon cooking sherry

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 lb. lean ground pork

1 package prepared dumpling wrappers 

For dipping sauce: soy sauce plus any combination of sesame oil, chili sauce or oil, vinegar, minced scallions, minced cilantro, minced ginger


1. Finely chop the cabbage, scallions, and black mushrooms and transfer to a mixing bowl.

2. Add soy sauce, sherry, salt, cornstarch and ground pork to the vegetable mixture. Mix until smooth and well blended.

3. Place wrapper on a clean surface or your palm, and add filling by heaping teaspoonfuls into the center.

4. Moisten the inside edges of the filled wrappers with a little water and fold over, forming crescents. Press them together, making pleats to seal. Make sure they are well-sealed, or the filling will fall out when you cook them.

5. Bring a large pot of water to boil and carefully drop in dumplings.  There should be a lot of room for them to move around.

6. When water resumes boiling, add 1 cup of water to cool. When the water resumes boiling again, add another cup of cold water to cool. Repeat this process one more time. When the water boils for the third time, the dumplings will be done.  They should be floating.

7. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.  Mine is a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, black Chinese vinegar, a hint of sugar, and minced ginger, scallions and cilantro.


 © Linda Shiue, 2010

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Beautiful post, Linda. We seem to have similar tastes in romantic 'era' movies. How nice that two occasions fall on the same date. Happy new Chinese year and a wonder Valentine to you and your special one.
Very tastefully done - in more ways than one.
Rated !
Here's my word of the day - cheongsam! Happy Valentine's Day!
This is gorgeous, and I love dumplings! We're invited to an annual Chinese New Year party on Saturday night...there will be a full menu of delightful foods, the reading of our horoscopes for the coming year - and fireworks afterward.

And remarkably - this movie is already in my DVD queue from Netflix! I'm looking forward to it even more now!
Oooh, a movue to see and a recipe for something I love, and have never tried to make for home consumption. I will forward this to my father the Cinophile, and see if he'd like to make a Netflix and dumplings date.
Thanks for the recipe! In the Mood for Love is one of my absolute favorite films. BUT, they are far too tragic to be the perfect Valentine's Day couple--unless you like your dumplings with a side of tragedy, which admittedly is more romantic for some.
Well, I know what dinner will be tonight and I know what handsome, loving man I will be sharing it with. Lovely!
Bonnie: thanks. Dinner is celebrated on the eve, just like the other New Year, so that would be tomorrow night. I did not mention, but many people host dumpling parties, so the wrapping goes by much faster, and it becomes a communal cooking event.

Thanks, Fusun! Happy Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day to you too.

Lucy: it is a good word, isn't it? I don't speak Cantonese, but I like this word for the Chinese dress better than the Mandarin, which is qi pao. Happy Valentine's to you too!

LuluandPhoebe: definitely easy to make, and lots of room for variation. Turkey works for those who don't eat pork. People can also customize their dipping sauces. Rice paper wrappers, unfortunately, probably will not work- they'll dissolve. If you're thinking gluten free (I've been paying attention!), you might be able to fashion something out of what is called "tofu skin"- which are dried, flat sheets you can find in Chinese groceries. Soften those in warm water, and then probably better to steam or pan fry than to boil.

Ann, sounds like a lovely idea.
M.Mckenzie: sounds like a fantastic celebration! Enjoy it, and the movie.

reluctant muse: don't give away the ending! :) But, I think the more tragic aspects add to the appeal, and certainly the mood.
Oh, I love this film! What a wonderful post...to tie Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day together... thank you for reminding me of In The Mood and do you ship those dumplings? xox
Rated for dumplings and tragic lovers.
Sun neen fai lok! Great movie and recipe- thanks!
Linda, I loved that movie and really enjoyed this post. Thanks for making the Valentine's Day-Lunar New Year connection, a time to welcome good fortune in all ways. For us, it's Tet, because my son was born in Vietnam, and we are headed to various Tet celebrations tonight, Saturday, and Sunday. Dumplings are always good, but there's also banh chung and banh xeo... Rated.
Linda, you have the most wonderful posts, always a delight, and frequently with an added recipe.
Oh, I would never give away the ending; I am all for surprise! But all you need to do is read a description of the film on the dvd box to figure out the "mood" these cats are in.
Oh, I'd forgotten about this film - remember seeing it in theatres and just entranced the whole time.

Looks like no room for flowers at the table this year! :)
Donna: thanks! Happy Valentine's Day!
David Ehrenstein: thanks for the link, and the exclusive photo.
Robin, Joan, and Meander61: thanks for stopping by.
JustJuli: impressed with your Cantonese!
Martha: Happy Tet! Banh xeo is one of my recent obsessions, please share a recipe if you have a good one.
Kathy: thanks for reading and for the excessive compliment.
Chris Michael: I was so happy to remember this film, glad you are also a fan.
I love film--I love Chinese film--and I love dumplings--but I didn't think of making them? Now I will think about doing this...glad you were on the cover so I could discover you!

Happy V Day...

Rated for being delicious...
I love film--I love Chinese film--and I love dumplings--but I didn't think of making them? Now I will think about doing this...glad you were on the cover so I could discover you!

Happy V Day...

Rated for being delicious...
Come on, Year of the Tiger! (This Snake is so weary of the Ox.) This is indeed delicious. Thank you, Linda, for reminding us of In The Mood for Love. I want to see it again. (This one will never leave you. It's indelible, exquisite.)
Hsieh Hsieh!

Kung Hsi Fa Ts'ai!

Jen dao mei, wo bu hwai dzo ts'ai.
Otherwise, I would certainly give it a try. I seem to remember that the after the cabbage is finely chopped it was picked up in a piece of cloth and squeezed to remove excess water.
I never knew, first hand, what a banquet was like until I experienced the new year celebration on Taiwan.
Thanks again!

Yes, great fortune to you, and bundles of Love! Love the Year of the Tiger! (Great movie reference, too!)
sweet peony: thanks!
PandoraM: glad to remind you of this great film.
coachcaptain: you're right- squeezing out excess liquid is a good step. thanks.
julieshanti: wishing you good luck and fortune too!
I want all of your posts in a book. I will try the dumplings, as I want to try so much of what you share. Beyond that, it is these notes that keep bringing me back to your page. I am going to search for this beautiful movie.
scupper, that was the nicest compliment ever. thank you so much.