Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

There is something about touching pen to paper that so many miss out on these days. I’m currently blogging, pen in hand, on the back of my college shopping list in the dentists office with cleaned teeth, waiting for my dad to get his teeth cleaned. Of course, by the time you read this, I will have typed it up as well.

Hurricane Irene is supposed to hit Philly (and a big area of the East Coast) tonight. While I’m definitely no weather master, I do keep up with the weather experts, and Irene is looking forbidding. I have to admit, it’s difficult not being scared with the Weather Channel on constantly. Yes, the TV is still running, although this might not be the case in a few hours. No fears though (well, maybe a little), Irene will come and go. I just hope it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

So you say, isn’t this supposed to be a FOOD blog? Very well, let’s talk dumplings. As a Chinese, it is almost disgraceful that I have yet to share a recipe for Chinese dumplings. Dumplings are one of those rare traditional foods that have become prevalent in western Chinese restaurants. But no wonder, for how could anyone not love the chewy skin, soft (and sometimes crunchy) center, and adorable appearance? Every Chinese family has their own recipe for dumplings. Most variations are in the filling, but even the wrapper has alternative recipes. Some people buy wonton wrappers, white pastry wrappers, or egg wrappers. In my family, we like to make our own wrappers with a rough ratio of water to flour. Fillings not only deviate between families, but also across different regions across China. For example, people in two cities in the province of Shanxi generally prefer different fillings. People in Hejin enjoy white radish dumplings, while those who live in Taiyuan like cabbage dumplings. Many people in Northwest China prefer beef and lamb dumplings. The reason is due to the fact that many people in Northwest China are Muslim, so cannot eat pork. Another very popular dumpling filling is wine veggie (also known as Chinese chives—a long, dark green, grass-like vegetable), and eggs. Many Chinese eat dumplings with simply soy sauce and vinegar, but at home, we always make a special sauce, or dip, with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, chili, and salt. The sauce just adds a whole new level of flavor to the dumplings. It’s unreal.

I hope everyone in the line of Irene makes it through safely. While you’re stuck at home for the next 36 or so hours, why not engage in some family bonding by making Chinese dumplings as a family?


3 cups all-purpose flour
around 1 1/4 cups cold water

1 stalk spring onion, sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup shiitake mushroom, finely sliced
2 cups white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 egg


1. In a large bowl, slowly stir the cold water into the flour, adding as much as is necessary to form a soft, but workable dough. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
2 While the dough is resting, combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Spoon the salt on top. Heat the oil in a pan and pour it over the salt and vegetables. Stir well so that the oil is dispersed within the veggies. Crack the egg into the vegetables and stir well.
3 Knead the dough until it is a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 50 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece out into a circle around 3 inches in diameter.
4. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch the edges with folds to seal. This creates nice ridges along the semi circle.
5. To cook the dumplings, bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop the dumplings in carefully one by one. Cover with lid. As the water boils again, add in half a cup of cold water. Let the water boil again, and add another one half cup of cold water. When the water in the pot boils again, the dumplings will be ready. Drain and serve with soy sauce and vinegar.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lemon Square Bars

Kia ora! It’s been too long since my last blog post. I’ve been cooking, but I just haven’t been able to document my food adventures. Among other reasons, I had a well-needed vacation back to Aotearoa- the land of the long white cloud, or as most of us know it, New Zealand.

There is so much I miss about New Zealand-mainly the people-but also the environment, the food, and the lifestyle of kiwis. While I was born in China, New Zealand will always occupy a significant space in my heart. It’s where I first went to school; it’s where I caught my first fish, it’s where I touched a piano for the first time; and it’s where I had my first Tim Tam. It’s where I grew from an innocent 6 year old to a mature (at least I like to think so) 16 year old.

I was propelled to make lemon bars after seeing my beloved lemon tree back in New Zealand. I think it must be a kiwi thing, but most houses in NZ have fruit trees in the garden, the most popular ones being grapefruit and lemon. There is something special about going out to the garden, picking the brightest, juiciest looking lemon, taking it back into the kitchen and turning it into a dessert. In my garden we have a lemon tree, a tangelo tree, and a feijoa tree. Feijoa is one of the fruits that I miss the most. It’s somewhat similar to a guava, but so much better. Every autumn when the fruit is in season, families start to sell it outside on their front lawn, and mothers start to experiment with it, creating recipes like feijoa bread.

I wish I could’ve brought some lemons from my lemon tree back to the US, but customs would never have allowed it. No worries though, lemons are plenty abundant in the US too. Maybe these lemon treats aren’t quite as good as they could’ve been had I had my own lemons on hand, but they’re still pretty darn good.


1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
2 cups flour

4 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the olive oil and sugar together. Add the flour, and stir until mixed well. Form into balls and flatten onto a 9x13 baking pan.
3. Bake for 15 minutes until slightly golden.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Add in the sugar and sift in flour. Pour lemon juice in and mix well.
5. Pour onto the prepared crust and return into the oven for 30 minutes, or until set. Cool completely before slicing.