According to traditional Chinese medicine, in the spring the body may encounter frequent occurrences of disease due to toxins stored throughout winter. The leek, which heightens the life force, detoxifies, nourishes the spleen and stomach, and reinforces the liver.
Encased in crisp, golden pastry, toothsome leek dumplings are traditional Chinese folk fare.
The Chinese character for leek is jiu, which has a similar pronunciation as the character for longevity – a connotation endorsed by the leek’s rapid growth which no amount of cutting back can inhibit. The shape of a fried leek dumpling resembles a gold ingot, hence their other name which means “long prosperity dumpling.”
A legend tells about the origins of fried leek dumplings. Liu Xiu, first Emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), suffered a defeat and fled to a small village. Battle weary Liu knocked on the door to the first dwelling he came upon and begged for food. The householder welcomed the imposing Liu in and immediately set about preparing a meal. All the impoverished family had in the way of ingredients was some herbs that they cooked with flour. Unexpectedly the fried pastry was so delicious that Liu Xiu named it jiucai, meaning “a life-saving vegetable,” which gradually evolved into the present character for leek (in Chinese the words saving a life and leek are homophones).