One of my favorite memories from the time I was in the U.S. this fall was teaching several groups of people to make Chinese dumplings. Chinese dumplings, called 饺子 (jiao zi) or 水饺 (shui jiao), are one of my favorite foods (along with the green beans). I’m quite happy that one of the closest restaurants to my new house is a dumpling restaurant with a whole list of possible fillings. The variety of fillings is one of the wonderful things about dumplings. The first filling I tried at this new restaurant was lamb and cilantro (so good), the photo below is shrimp and Chinese chives, and the recipe below is the classic pork and cabbage. These three are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fillings. When I lived in Xi’an there was a famous restaurant with 300+ different kinds of dumplings on the menu.
I adapted Fuschia Dunlop’s recipe in Every Grain of Rice: Simple Home Cooking. If you want to try more authentic Chinese cooking, I recommend this cookbook. Dunlop is British and studied in a Chinese culinary school. She knows authentic Chinese food and how to explain to Westerners how to make it, which is a rare combination. As with every Chinese recipe, feel free to adjust proportions and seasonings to your liking!
Chinese Dumplings Recipe
Serves 4 as a meal or 8 as an appetizer
1 tsp finely minced ginger (peel first)
½ pound ground pork
1 small egg, beaten
4 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp chicken stock (optional, but I find the pork gets a better texture when you use it)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
¾ pound Chinese cabbage (sometimes called Napa cabbage)
12 oz pack of round dumpling wrappers (sometimes called gyoza wrappers, they usually are in the freezer section of Chinese/Asian grocery stores, and possibly in the freezer section of a large grocery store, too)
Chinkiang/Zhenjiang or Shanxi vinegar (it is a mild brown vinegar)
Finely chop the cabbage, add about 1 tsp of salt and mix together. Let it sit for about 15-30 minutes, then squeeze out the water.
Put the pork in the bowl and add the egg, Shaoxing wine, stock, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and salt to taste. Mix well (some say in one direction so the filling fits together). Add in the cabbage, and mix well.
Take a dumpling wrapper in your hand, and place about 1 tbsp filling in the middle. Dip your finger in a small dish of water and run it around the edge of the wrapper. Then seal the wrapper with several small pleats. Continue until you run out of filling or wrappers.
Drop some of the dumplings into the boiling water and cook them for five to ten minutes, depending on how quickly the water comes back to a boil (this depends a lot on whether you have electric or gas and how many dumplings you put in the pot at a time). Each time the water comes back to a rolling boil, add a small cup of cold water to the pot, to slow the cooking so the dumplings don’t fall apart. Add water twice and when the water comes back to a boil they should be cooked through. You can cut one open if you want to double-check. When they are cooked, remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon.
Serve with vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil; each person can mix to their own proportions. Some people like 50-50 soy sauce and vinegar. I prefer either 25-75 soy sauce to vinegar or plain vinegar, with some chili oil for spice.
Recipe adapted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, Fuchsia Dunlop, “Northern-Style Boiled Dumplings”