As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself often craving the Chinese and Vietnamese dishes of my family. Although I never learned to cook until after college, I’m making the effort now as an adult to learn how to make the dishes that my family brought over to the U.S. And now, more than ever during this pandemic, I’ve found myself turning more and more to dishes and flavors that were familiar to me growing up. So what better way to celebrate Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage month than to share what’s giving me comfort right now?
So here’s my recipe for 餃子 (jiaozi), a kind of Chinese dumpling.
Jiaozi have a special place in my heart. I have distinct memories of my grandma teaching me how to make dumplings wrappers, the best method of rolling them out (which btw was using a glass beer bottle since we didn’t have a small roller), and how to wrap them. Her deft hands would wrap 10 dumplings in the time that it would take me to wrap one. I was always excited whenever dumplings were on the dinner menu.
When my grandma decided to move back to China, we were left without homemade dumplings. Making dumplings is labor-intensive so I did not attempt to make them until I was an adult with the helping hands of friends.
I’ve made dumpling wrappers from scratch before but often don’t since I think you can find pre-made wrappers that are just as good as the ones made from scratch. Either way, I’ve included instructions on how to make dumplings wrappers from scratch as well as recipes for a meat filling and a vegetarian filling. And the best part of dumplings? It’s super easy to add substitutions or take out ingredients for a flavor to fit your liking. I usually go by smell when I’m making my fillings. If it’s fragrant, that’s usually an indicator it’s going to be good.
1 lb ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
1 carrot peeled and grated
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced (optional)
1/4 cup ginger root, minced or grated
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cloves of garlic minced
Pinch of salt
Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. I usually use my hands to mix. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
1 lb. firm tofu in water, frozen completely (for at least 24 hours) and thawed
3 tbsps vegetable oil
5 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
2 cups napa cabbage leaves (just the green parts), shredded or chopped
2 blocks (about 5 oz.) savory baked tofu, minced
2 cups (about 8-16) chopped shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced (optional)
1 cup of carrot peeled and grated
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the green onions and fresh ginger together. After the oil becomes fragrant, add the carrots and sauté for a 4-5 minutes, add the cabbage and stir-fry until wilted (a minute or so). Stir in the crumbled tofu and the baked tofu and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Remove the filling from the stove. Mix in the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Stir together until well mixed. Set aside.
Note: one batch will wield about 80 dumplings which should be good for 1 lb of filling.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
flour for worksurface
In a large bowl mix flour with 1/2 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.
Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle. With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper before wrapping your dumpling.
Wrapping the dumpling
I usually use water or an egg wash to wet the edges of my dumpling wrapper to make it easier to put together. There are lots of ways to wrap dumplings. My favorite is one with pleats but it can be a fun activity to try different shapes. Here’s a nifty video showing other ways to wrap dumplings.
Cooking the dumpling
You can either pan-fry, boil, or steam your dumplings. I prefer pan-fried dumplings. To pan-fry your dumpling, heat up a non-stick pan with a couple tablespoons of oil. Place your dumplings on the pan on medium-high heat until the bottoms are golden. Add a ½ cup of water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and the dumplings wrappers are soft.
Serve your dumplings with your choice of dipping sauce. I’ve included a recipe for a dipping sauce below. Enjoy! (If you have any leftover uncooked dumplings, you can freeze them for later)
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste or chili oil (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
Recipe adapted from userealbutter.com.