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.

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