Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

Hey, remember when I said I was going to make jiaozi and baozi and tons of other Chinese goodies for the New Year? Well that didn't happen. I meant to do it, I really did! But  first I had to cook for my Superbowl party, then Valentine's Day snuck up on me, and I had to make tiramisu that one day -- before I knew it, it was March. Yikes! You know what they say about the best laid plans...

So, I promised Dan last night that I would finally make some dumplings for dinner. He was pretty pumped, because after eating all kinds of interesting things in China last summer (frogs, snake, congealed pig blood, etc.), he's really come to appreciate the straightforward deliciousness of the humble jiaozi. There was just one problem though: no pre-made, store-bought dumpling skins, and I was all out of wonton wrappers. Merde! That left me with two options: (1) disappoint Dan, who almost never craves anything and only gets excited about food when the stars align, or (2) make my own damn skins. Really, I only had the one option.

This was my first time making dumpling skins from scratch, but I wasn't too worried. I've watched my parents do it for years, and I've handled enough homemade skins in my lifetime to have a pretty good idea of what they're supposed to look and feel like. Plus, it's just flour and water, and really very straightforward once you get down to it. The only thing I had trouble with was rolling out the individual skins. They had a tendency to get really thin in the middle and stay thicker on the edges -- the exact opposite of what is desirable in a dumpling wrapper! It took a little practice, but after a couple skins I got the hang of it. Still, they were a little thicker than is ideal, because I was worried I'd make them too thin and they'd break apart while cooking.

As for the filling, I usually like to use ground pork, but for whatever reason my BJs, Safeway, and Shoppers almost never have it in stock. What's up with that?! Anyway, I wasn't happy about it, but I used the only thing I had on hand: ground chicken. Ground chicken and cabbage, actually. And you know what? It was great! If I hadn't made the dumplings myself, I would have never guessed the meat wasn't pork. Go figure.

Overall, not such a bad effort, if I must say so myself. Don't they look pretty legit? Not the prettiest dumplings in the world, but they basically look the way they're supposed to. And there's just something about seeing rows and rows of fat dumplings on a tray that really makes me happy. Probably because my parents only ever made homemade dumplings on special occasions, and I naturally associate dumplings with happy things. Not such a surprising association, since dumplings (when made correctly) are little packets of juicy, meaty deliciousness. I could probably eat a hundred of the things by myself!

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi) With Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients: (Makes about 20 dumplings)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups water

- 1/2 lb ground chicken
- 1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded
- 1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp seasame oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Salt/pepper to taste
(1) Starting with the filling,  mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.
**I like to leave off on the salt/pepper until after all the other stuff is incorporated, because you don't want your dumplings to be too salty. A quick lick is a good taste test, and I've never yet gotten salmonella from doing it.
(2) For the wrappers, mix flour and water in a large bowl until the dough comes together.  If dough is still too dry and floury, slowly add more water a little bit at a time until it is smooth and pliable. Dough should not be sticky.
(3) Shape finished dough into a ball, then cut it in half with a knife.
(4) Roll each half into a long strip, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
(5) Slice strips into 1/2-inch pieces.
(6) Flatten each piece into circles, then roll them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin. It doesn't matter if the skins aren't perfect circles, just make sure to get the dough as thin as you can. The middle should be a little thicker so the filling doesn't fall through, but the edges should be thin.
(7) Spoon a generous portion of meat filling into the center of each wrapper, then fold the wrapper in half. Pinch the edges closed, then scallop the edges of the dumpling by folding the outer edge in an overlapping pattern. (Like an accordion -- see picture above for guidance)
(8) Once wrapped, dumplings can be boiled in a savory broth, or pan-fried. To pan-fry like I did this time, heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot, then place about 5-7 dumplings in the skillet to cook.
(9) Pour about 1/2 a cup of water into the hot pan (it will sizzle!), then put a lid on the skillet. Shake the skillet to so that the dumplings don't stick to the bottom, then allow dumplings to cook until the water has evaporated.
**The bottoms of the dumplings should be light brown and fried-looking, and the rest should be entirely opaque with a yellowish/brown tinge. If parts of the wrapper are still white or translucent, the dumpling is not cooked all the way.
(10) Enjoy plain or with soy sauce and vinegar.

1 comment:

How To Be Perfect said...

They look great, I love dumplings and have been meaning to give them a try, I'm not sure mine would look nearly as fantastic as yours though. x