Authentic Chinese Dumplings

by Jill Chen on August 21, 2011

in All Recipes, Appetizers

Every time I see Jill Chen’s photos from China, and specifically her dumpling photos, I get a hunger pang deep in my belly. After a little coercion, Jill agreed to share her adventure and her favorite dumpling recipe, made by her very own Mom. I can’t wait to replicate these at home. -Maggie

The whole family traveled to China in March and the quest for “Jiaozi,” authentic Chinese dumplings, was at the top of our to-do list. Yes, we are very lucky that my Mom makes them for us at least once a week at home, but we wanted to try the real deal.

What were we thinking?

We sampled dumplings at every opportunity, from upscale restaurants to market street vendors and back alley home kitchens. And it was all very good. My extra 10 pounds gained is proof of that.

But you wanna know what? With each taste, we were a little disappointed. The best dumplings were very truly made by my Mom right here at home.

Duh, hello?

For the filling you will need a pound of lean ground pork, a pound of frozen shrimp, and a medium/large nappa cabbage.

Finely hand chop the cabbage (or pulse in a food processor being careful not to over pulse and end up with puréed cabbage). Put in a colander set in the sink or a bowl, and mix in a 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let stand 10 minutes. This will draw out the juice from the cabbage. Squeeze out the excess liquid and add the cabbage to a large mixing bowl with rest of the filling ingredients. Mix with hands until well combined. Refrigerate this mixture while you make your dumpling wraps.

To make the dough, take a large bowl and add 2-1/2 cups water to 5 cups of flour. The ratio is always 1:2, but it’s better to have a slightly wetter dough that you can add flour to if you find it too sticky. Use chopsticks or a spatula to mix until you get a shaggy dough. Dump onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Let it rest 10 minutes.

Take a quarter of the dough (work with a bit at a time, and cover the rest with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out) and roll out to a big long snake shape, about an 1″ in diameter. Cut the dough into approximately 3/4″ thick pieces. Generously dust one piece with flour and flatten into little discs with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin, and with a back and forth motion, roll along outside edge, turning dough as you go. The idea is to have a thinner edge all around and thicker middle to support the filling. While this is time consuming, it’s well-worth it if you want a hearty, chewy skin. If this rolling method is too challenging, just roll each piece flat throughout.

Don’t have the patience or time for all this? Don’t worry. Store-bought wraps are fine too.   It all ends up in your stomach just the same, so do your best.

Brush the excess flour from the surface to be sealed and spread some filling on top. Get as much in as you comfortably can, but do not over fill so that it bulges out. You want a clean seal of the edges without pieces of meat filling in between. Especially important if you plan to boil the dumplings; the water will leak in and dilute the flavor.

Pinch the middle firmly together, and make a pleat towards the center from each side across the top, making a crescent shaped dumpling. Make sure all edges are tight and well sealed all around. If you are using store-bought wraps, you will need to run a wet finger (have a small bowl of water handy) along half the edge to seal together. Fresh dough does not need water.

Place them on a floured tray and freeze. Once frozen, store in a large Ziploc bag. You can pan fry or boil from frozen, or cook it from fresh.

To pan fry, you need a large non-stick frying pan with lid for steaming. Drizzle some vegetable oil and arrange your dumplings like sardines, it’s okay that they touch. Over high heat, let it sizzle for a minute or two, then add water so the level is about one third the way up the side of the dumplings. Cover and let it steam on high heat.

Keep an eye on the pan so it doesn’t completely dry out and burn the bottom of its precious cargo. Depending on whether the dumplings were frozen or extra large (please don’t make them too humongous), you may need to add a little bit more water and keep steaming. It should be done when the dough on the top looks cooked. Take the lid off the pan, letting the rest of the water cook off and the bottoms of each dumpling crisp on the pan. Watch closely so they don’t burn! This takes only a few minutes. Check underneath with a spatula for golden brownness and remove immediately from heat.

Serve with bottom side up so that the skin stays crispy. Dip in your favorite dipping sauce or eat the traditional way with Chinese soy vinegar and garlic chili sauce. Caution: Watch out for the hot soup that squirts out on the first bite!

Authentic Chinese Dumplings (Jiaozi)
Recipe from my mother, Edith Chen
Makes about 80 dumplings

Ingredients

  • 1 Napa medium/large cabbage, chopped to yield approximately 10 cups (once you add 1/2 tablespoon salt to wilt cabbage, the yield will be approximately 4-1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 pound raw chopped shrimp (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon light soya sauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Packages of store-bought Dumpling Wraps, or make your own.

Homemade Dumplings Wraps
Makes about 80 wraps

Ingredients

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2-1/2 cups luke warm water

If the gods and the stars align, you will have just enough wrap and filling. If you don’t, then do what we do: make an omelet with the extra filling, or use the extra dough to make Chinese scallion pancakes.

Eat Boutique is an online magazine + market for food enthusiasts to celebrate the best pure, local + comforting handmade foods. We call it: food that hugs you back. Looking for the perfect gift? Eat Boutique sells gift boxes filled with handmade sweet and savory treats. Send food that hugs you back today.

Jill Chen

Jill Chen, photographer, graphic designer, and urban farmer resides in Toronto, Canada with her chickens and mini pet pig named Henry. After running a design studio for twenty years, Jill gave it all up for a simpler way of living. When she's not making food or photographing food, she's growing food with the goal of being self-sustaining with year-round organic produce, despite the harsh Canadian winter. Charcuterie, wine-making, mushroom cultivation, aquaponics and shrimp farming are just a few of the projects on her plate right now. You can follow Jill's blog, Freestyle Farm, for beautiful photos that will inspire you to cook or grow something.

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  • Deb

    Irresistible dumplings! The concise instructions and easy ingredient list make your Mom’s recipe quite appealing! I very much enjoy that you are sharing her recipe. Recipes with a sense of time and place inspire me. 

  • http://www.freestylefarm.ca Jill@FreestyleFarm

    Thank you Deb, I hope you make them, and love them as much as we do.

  • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

    I am definitely going to make these. They are actually so easy when you explain it step by step. Thanks Jill!

  • Pingback: My Mother’s Dumplings » FreestyleFarm

  • Alexander Treu

    What are the white rounds things next to the pot stickers?????

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=643600481 Jill Chen

    Those white round things are little pan fried buns stuffed with pork and crispy on the bottom. So delicious! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheng_Jian_Bao_on_a_pan.jpg

  • Kat

    I made these yesterday . So simple,time consuming but delicious..The dough is perfect. It is hard to believe that something as simple and flour and water can make a dough that is so good..Thank you very much for sharing . This will be my main stay for dumpling dough from now on. No more searching the net for recipes.
    I will say the hardest part was folding the dumpling and not getting the meat on the edges which cause them not to seal correctly . I just kept folding them and stretching the dough a little when this happened . They were not the prettiest dumplings but they were sure tasty..Thanks again

    • Jill Chen

      I am so glad you tried it! And DON’T worry about the appearance. If it’s tricky, there is nothing wrong with rolling it out thin with a rolling pin, and using the rim of a glass to cut out your wrappers. Omit the pleats if it’s easier, or just do one pleat on each side.

      • Kat

        I did just that , rolled them out first with rolling pin then cut with a larger cup I had..I think with practice I will get better..I love the ratio you a gave 1:2 .Made a small batch , 2 cups flour and one cup water..I had enough meat to store in fridge last night then make another batch of dough today and finish them off. Easy to remember and works fantastic. I also used a bit of oil in the bottom of skillet, didn’t use non stick , then added a little water on the bottom to let them steam off…Hats off to you for such great images of process and a great recipe..

  • Beedeekay

    I heard the dumplings had a piece of pork fat in them to make them moist, also some were injected with fat/jelly to do the same. Anyone heard of this?

    • Jill@FreestyleFarm

      I have never heard of that, but a fatter ground will definitely give you more flavour. I found they are moister, light and less dense when you use less meat and more vegetable ratio.

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