Tina’s Chinese New Year Dumplings Recipe

Learn about the significance behind this traditional dumpling recipe, brought to the United States by Tina Yao.

| June 2019

tina-hsia-yao 
Tina Hsia Yao

Tina Yao was born in a war zone in 1942.

The daughter of a major general for the Chinese Nationalist Party, the first few years of her life were spent moving from place to place, constantly on the run for safety. When she was seven, her family had no choice but to flee their home in Sichuan, China, and relocate to the island of Taiwan.

Before graduating with a degree in Chinese literature in Taiwan, she married her husband, William, an accountant for Pan America in the United States. After graduation, she moved to the United States with him and settled into a new life in Queens, New York. Soon after arriving, she began working toward obtaining another degree, this time in secondary education. A college degree was a priority for her: She wanted to model the importance of education to her children, despite the challenges of obtaining a degree in a foreign language and system.



The turmoil of Tina’s childhood seems to have shaped her into a woman who doesn’t waste time. Always seeking progress and betterment, she found herself unfulfilled by office work and instead began buying a number of businesses. She owned a real estate firm and dabbled in the restaurant industry — at one point, she even owned a pizzeria. She was always willing to take on a new investment, manage success, and then move on to the next opportunity. Her children, Nancy and James, both recognize how driven their mother has always been, putting her true loves — literature, poetry, and art — aside to pursue avenues that would provide better models for them.

Interestingly, her daughter feels her mother’s true identity manifests in her cooking. When Tina prepares food, it is with intention and an artist’s eye. To watch Tina make dumplings is to see a true art form. Her fingers, quick and nimble, create uniform, perfect pleats on every identical piece. She patiently lines up the beautiful purses — almost too beautiful to eat — until there are rows of hundreds. Then she carefully drops them into the boiling water, gingerly swirling the water with her chopsticks until they plump to the surface, ready for her family to devour.






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