Chinese Dumplings – Jiaozi

Formerly known as "Jiao'er", Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi) are very popular all over the country. You can often see the dumpling restaurants at different corners of a city. It is said that Jiaozi was first invented by a famous herbal medicine doctor – Zhang Zhongjing of Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) for medicinal use. Another version of its origination is related to the Emperor Taizong in Tang Dynasty (618-907), who let his chef to mix some vegetables in his favorite meatballs to make them less greasy. Then the chef thought of a special way by enfolding these meatballs with flour wrappers and boiling them in water. The emperor loved this new type of food very much. Later it was widespread in the whole country.

Chinese dumpling

To make the dumplings taste better, Chinese people care about not only the fillings, but also the dumpling wrappers, which are made of wheat flour. When making a dough, some people can add eggs, oil and water to mix with flour. The fillings can be different styles like vegetarian, non-vegetarian, sweet or salty; there are also various cooking methods, such as boiling, steaming, baking and frying. There are many kinds of meat stuffing like shrimp, crab, sea cucumber, fish, chicken, pork, beef, mutton, etc. The vegetarian stuffing is divided into assorted vegetarian stuffing and ordinary vegetarian stuffing.

Famous types of dumpling in China

There are many famous dumplings all over China, such as Dim Sum shrimp dumplings in Guangzhou/Hong Kong, sour soup dumplings in Xi’an, pork and cabbage dumplings in Hengshui, pan-fried dumplings in Shanghai, steamed crab dumplings in Yangzhou, Fanjiyong Dumplings in Harbin, Laobian soup dumplings in Shenyang and Zhong soup dumplings in Chengdu.

Chinese dumplings and Chinese New Year

Nowadays Jiaozi has become a type of staple food in China, especially North China. An old saying goes like "After the Lesser and Greater Cold days, eating the dumplings to welcome the New Year". The Spring Festival is the most important festival in China, and Jiaozi is the must-eat food for many Chinese families during the Chinese New Year's Eve and the first day of the year. It was not accidental that dumplings could become the festive food. Chinese people integrate certain auspicious meaning into it, which conforms to the festive atmosphere. The common dumplings are shaped like gold or silver ingots, and eating them for the celebration of the New Year may prefigure the possibility of making money in the year to come, which is the dream of most average people. Just imagine that the family members get together to make dumplings, chat and enjoy the precious moment of a year. It is absolutely a joyful family occasion during the festival. Usually people will make much more dumplings at one time, so some of them will be consumed during the family reunion dinner on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. The rest are put in the refrigerator. It is quite easy and convenient to make it ready to eat if you don’t want to cook during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Colorful dumplin for Chinese New Year

The tradition of eating dumplings during Chinese New Year can date back to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). According to the record of "History of Ming Palace", it mentioned that the people in the royal family got up early at 5 am on the first day of the New Year, drinking the liquor soaked with Sichuan pepper and oriental arborvitae leaves, and eating dumplings for the celebrations. One silver coin was secretly placed in one of those dumplings, If someone got the special dumpling in his/her bowl, he/she would be lucky for the whole year. Alternatively, now people also choose to put peanuts, Chinese red dates or candies into the dumplings as a sign of good luck. Those who eat a dumpling with a piece of candy inside will have sweeter days in the coming year, those eating dumplings with peanuts inside will live a long and healthy life, those who have Chinese dates and chestnuts in the dumplings will conceive a baby boy soon, and those who get coins will continue to make money. In addition to the Spring Festival, Chinese people also eat dumplings on the day of winter solstice.

Dumpling recipe: general steps of making dumplings

Preparing a dough

To make dumpling, first put the flour in a big bowl and sprinkle some salt, some people claim that it will be better to add the eggs (egg white preferred) and vegetable juice from those ready to make the filling. Stir the flour with the cold water being slowly added in to form a sticky and wet dough.

Add some more flour in the bowl and keep kneading the dough into a smooth and less sticky one (at least 10 minutes if possible).

Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

How to make dumpling

Making the Filling

The second step to make dumpling is make the filling. After you leave the dough for resting, then it is time to make the filling. Put the minced meat in a bowl and add the soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, and pepper. Stir in only one direction.

Add the other filling ingredients, which can be any vegetables like cabbage, celery, white turnip, spinach, Chinese chives, etc. Mushroom and seafood are also popular ingredients in China. You can create your own favorite style of dumplings at home. Stir in the same direction until the mixture is sticky.

Form the Dumplings

Take the dough out from the bowl on to the worktop. Knead the dough again for a short while with some flour.

Divide the dough into small pieces, with each piece weighing about 15-20 grams. Roll each piece into a round dumpling wrapper with a rolling pin, about 8-10 cm in diameter. Don’t forget to sprinkle some flour on the worktop in advance to prevent the dough from sticking.

Laying the wrapper in the open palm of one hand, place a tablespoon or so of filling in the center and moisten the wrapper’s edge with water. Pinch opposite edges of the wrapper together to form a half-moon shape that’s open at both ends. Then pinch the edges to seal. Repeat with the rest of wrappers and filling.

dumpling recipe

Cook the Dumplings

Boil a large pot of water. Don’t put all dumplings in at one time (be sure all the dumplings can float on the water surface when they are ready). Since they are freshly made dumplings, you need to put them in water softly. Give them a gentle stir to avoid sticking together or going split from the edge. Then cover the pot. Once the water returns to boil, add 1/2 cup of cold water. Two more times are needed (add cold water totally three times after the dumplings are put into the pot).

When the water comes to boil again, the dumplings should be fully cooked and ready to be taken out from the pot. Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor now! In China, some people would like to eat the dumplings with the dipping sauce of black vinegar and soy sauce.

Now if you can find premade dumpling wrappers in the neighborhood stores or supermarkets, then it will be much easier for you to make dumplings at home. Have you learned the dumpling recipe?

Recommended China food tours to learn to make dumpling:

  • 15-day China Cooking & Foodie Tour
  • 16-day China Culinary Tour

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