Thursday, January 3, 2008

Chinese Dumplings (Jiaozi) for New Years

If you know any of the authors, or have read the blog before, you know we are a bit “overboard” when it comes to dumplings. Perhaps we were dumplings in a former life or something. Anyhow, with family in town we decided to make homemade Jiaozi – traditional Chinese dumplings. It’s a bit of a new year’s tradition within the family, and who are we to mess with tradition or pass on a dumpling consumption opportunity.

This step-by-step record of our dumpling day may help you if you decide to make your own dumplings. yes, yes, you can buy frozen, tastless versions in the costco, but these are so much better and as with som many things food related, the proces is part of the pleasure. Moreover, the version here is our version, but there are lots of variations to try, so don’t feel you have to stick with anything said below. If you like black mushrooms, for example, throw them in. Don't dig on no swine? Use beef. The options are endless.

You start with the filling. Ours is made with ground pork - about 2.5 pounds of it. Don't buy anything too lean - you need some fat in the mixture. If you find your is too lean, you can also add additional pork fat. Generally, to this we would add perhaps a 1/2 cup of dried shrimp, but we were out, so none in this patch.

To this you add chopped and drained Napa cabbage:

The cabbage must be cleaned and then chopped, salted and drained of water. THERE IS A LOT OF WATER IN CABBAGE and unless you follow these steps, the dumplings will be watery and have a very bland taste. The cabbage should be salted with a lot of salt and then allowed to sit and drain for at least 30 minutes – preferably with a weighted plate on top. We then wring out the cabbage in a dish towel until it is very dry.

Once this step is completed, add the cabbage to the pork and add in an egg as a binding agent, chopped green onions, corn oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt and ginger to taste. The resulting mixture looks something like this:

I believe the mixture benefits from a chance to sit and integrate. An hour if fine, overnight works too but there is no need to wait. if you want, just start wrapping.

Once the filling is complete, it’s time for the hands on process


The techniques for wrapping dumplings vary and take a little time to master. It is a process best shared with a few friends or family members. You can make you own wrappers with simple flour and water, but better yet to buy some round pre-made Chinese wrappers. You can also use square won ton wrappers, but then the shape is different than what we use.

you add a small amount of filling to the center of the dumpling and then wet 180 degrees of the wrappers edge with water.

You then start to fold the dumpling in half, gathering the excess edge from one side together to form folds along the edge. You can fold them straight in half to made semi-circles, but by pleating them, you create a bottom to the dumpling that helps if you intend to pan fry some. Also, pleating adds lots of nice ridges for the dipping sauce.

Don't be discouraged - this takes time to master. There are also shortcuts, including the for purchase dumpling press available at Williams Sonoma. But they are much better if you do it by hand.

A finished dumpling should look like this:

You can then make a bunch of them:

You then boil in hot water, using the patented three boil method. Add the dumplings to boiling water. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then add a cup of cold water.

Wait for the second boil, add another cup of cold water and then the water boils the third time - take em out and serve.

Mmmmmmmmm, heaven. Dipping sauces can vary. We like soy, sesame oil, a little hot sauce or chili oil and green onions.

We ate a large number of these at dinner - as many as 10-15 per person (ok, some even more I admit). It's good to make a large batch, and these freeze very well. The process for storage is to place the sheet pan with the fresh dumplings in the freezer to harden. Once set, then throw them in a zip lock freezer bag and boil whenever you want a really tasty snack.