Natalie Keng (aka the Sauce Maven) is the creative mind behind Atlanta's Chinese Southern Belle and Global Hearth. Her bottled sauces, recipes, classes, and more bring people together at the intersection of Southern American and Chinese American cuisines. You've likely seen Natalie's sauces in our local market or featured in our meal kits before. We are thrilled to have a very special recipe from her on our menu right now: Lucky Dumplings celebrating the Lunar New Year! This year the Lunar New Year officially begins on January 22nd and ends on February 1st, a time marked by the Lunar calendar, but traditionally the holiday is celebrated all month long. We asked Natalie a few questions about Chinese Southern Belle and the Lunar New Year–keep reading to learn more!
Tell us about Chinese Southern Belle and Global Hearth!
It's very exciting to be celebrating 10 years in the business, especially surviving the pandemic. The love and support for us (and our sauces) from fans and partners (like G&G) made a huge difference in weathering logistics challenges, and sadly, the re-emergence of anti-Asian American backlash, locally and nationally. Chinese Southern Belle was a personal nickname that turned organically into cooking classes, food tours and an award-winning sauce line.
Global Hearth: Cooking Up a Better World allows for diverse offerings, including my first book, a cookbook-memoir. I have a master's degree from Harvard Kennedy School and now I'm the Sauce Maven but at heart, my vision and inspiration are unchanged-- a small business that brings people together around food and culture, supports local food, healthy people and planet, and gives back to the community.
What does supporting the local food community here in Georgia mean to you?
We're fortunate to be in a state with strong ties to and support for the land, people and farms, and growing some of my favorite snacks--peaches, satsumas and pecans! I'm forever grateful for the advice, friendships and partnerships forged along the way. The sauces won national awards, but winning the Flavor of Georgia (two times) was special.
Can you tell us about the Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year is a wonderful celebration of the first lunar new moon of the year, traditionally known as the Spring Festival, and coincides with the seasonal farming calendar. The celebrations focus on the themes of new beginnings, home, family, friends and traditional foods. Lunar New Year is a significant holiday (often spanning two to three weeks) in several East and South Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the United States and Canada.
Do you and your family have any traditions for celebrating each year?
It's evolved over time but my favorite is an Asian-style hot pot. For ten years, we hosted a community Annual Lunar New Year Cultural Banquet with 200+ guests and that was a blast.
What is the significance of eating dumplings during this time?
All the "lucky" new year's foods and dishes center around prosperity, togetherness and long life, like candies and oranges for a sweet life, sticky rice cake for harmony, and long uncut noodles for longevity. "Lucky Dumplings" are significant because they look like gold nuggets and represent good fortune.
Do you have any tips or tricks for making your dumpling kit?
When wrapping, double check the seals. Ugly dumplings are okay, but leaky or broken dumplings are unlucky!
Combine ground pork from Farmers & Fishermen, green onion, chopped cabbage & aromatics. Fold dumpling wrappers around your filling then steam fry 'til brown on the outside. Drizzle with chili oil and serve with a harmonious blend of Natalie's sauces & a traditional soy-vinegar sauce for dipping. This kit will be on our menu through the end of January. Happy Lunar New Year!