How to Make the Best Dumplings

Saturday October 15, 2016 Written by Kei Lum Chan

Dumplings

Dumplings. Is there anything more satisfying after a night out on the Tsingtao? Of course like any food, dumplings taste a lot better when you make them yourself. And it turns out they’re not that hard to do. 

To celebrate the release of China: The Cookbook, we asked authors Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan to share their favourite dumpling recipe with us. Ever obliging, they came back with three different recipes – along with a detailed history on the dumpling in all of its forms. For more information on the different varieties of dumplings, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Deep fried wontons 

DEEP-FRIED WONTONS

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Region: Guangdong

Serves: 4

Ingredients

50 g ground (minced) pork

50 g barbecue pork, cut into thin strips

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

½ teaspoon cornstarch (corn flour)

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

8 wonton wrappers

3 cups (750 ml) vegetable oil

salt

 
For the sweet and sour sauce:

1/3 cup (75 g) brown sugar

5 tablespoons red vinegar

3 tomatoes

150 g precooked chitterlings (pig’s intestines), cut into thin strips


Method

To make the sauce, combine the sugar and vinegar in a small bowl, mix well, and set aside.

Score the base of the tomatoes. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the tomatoes, and heat for 1–2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin. Cut into chunks and set aside.

For the filling, combine both porks, soy sauce, cornstarch (corn flour), sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl.

Fill a small bowl with cold water. Take a wonton wrapper and lay it flat on a cutting board. Put ½ tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of the wrapper. Lift the edges of the wrapper and twist to form a parcel. Dab a little water on the ends and press tightly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 180°C, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Gently lower the wontons, in batches, and deep-fry for 1–2 minutes until golden. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the wontons from the hot oil and drain them on paper towels.

Pour out most of the oil, leaving about 1 teaspoon in the wok. Add the chitterlings (pig's intestines) and tomatoes and stir-fry over medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar, and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Strain, if desired.

Serve the wontons with the sweet and sour sauce.

NOTE: The wontons can be frozen for up to a month. Spread out the uncooked wontons on a plate, freeze until firm, and then transfer them to a freezer bag. When ready to serve, place the frozen wontons into a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the dumplings float to the surface, add ¼ cup (60 ml) cold water and return to a boil.

Sichuan wontons

SICHUAN-STYLE WONTONS IN RED OIL

Preparation time: 15 minutes,

Plus 15 minutes marinating time

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: 48

Region: Sichuan

Ingredients

150 g ground (minced) pork

½ teaspoon light soy sauce

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ napa cabbage (about 200 g), leaves separated

½ tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

½ teaspoon sesame oil

48 Cantonese wonton wrappers

2 tablespoons crushed peanuts (optional)

1 scallion (spring onion)


For the red oil:

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon granulated sugar


Method

Combine the pork, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a bowl and mix well. Marinate for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the red oil. Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium heat and shake occasionally for 3–5 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.

Mix the ginger, garlic, salt, soy sauce, chili powder, and crushed peppercorns in a small heatproof bowl.

Heat the oils in a small skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat, then pour into the bowl. Stir in the sugar and toasted sesame seeds. Set aside.

To make the filling, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the cabbage leaves, and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Chop the cabbage, squeeze out most of the water, and add to the pork. Mix well. Stir in the cornstarch (corn flour) and the sesame oil. Mix again.

Take a wonton wrapper and lay it flat on a cutting board. Add about ½ tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold into a triangle, then fold the two ends to the center. Seal the folds with a little water. Press the ends tightly and lay on a large plate. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the wontons, in batches, and cook for 3–4 minutes until they float to the surface of the water. Add ½ cup (120 ml) cold water, increase the heat, and return to a boil. Cook the wontons until they float to the surface, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl.

Drizzle over the red oil, sprinkle over the crushed peanuts, if using, and scallion (spring onion), and serve immediately.

NOTE: The wontons can be frozen for up to a month. Spread out the uncooked wontons on a plate, freeze until firm, and then transfer them to a freezer bag. When ready to serve, put the frozen wontons into a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the wontons float to the surface, add ¼ cup (60 ml) cold water and return to a boil. 

Pot sticker 

POT-STICKER DUMPLINGS

Preparation time: 55 minutes, plus 15 minutes marinating time

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes: 24

Region: Shanghai


Ingredients

300 g ground (minced) pork

1½ teaspoons light soy sauce

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 small napa cabbage (about 600 g), leaves separated

1 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

24 large dumpling wrappers

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

cilantro (coriander), to garnish (optional)


For the dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons Zhenjiang or balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon shredded ginger


Method:

Pot-stickers, known as jiaozi in China, are a kind of meat or vegetable-filled dumpling, commonly eaten across Asia. While the dumplings can be boiled, steamed, or fried, the popular method is to fry the dumplings in a little oil, add a bit of water, and then cover to steam and cook the filling. Once the water has evaporated, the dumplings are pan-fried on one side for a crispy outside texture.

Combine the pork, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and 4 tablespoons water, and marinate for 15 minutes.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the cabbage, and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Chop the cabbage and squeeze out most of the water. Mix thoroughly with the pork. Stir in the cornstarch (corn flour) and sesame oil and mix well.

Fill a small dish with cold water and set aside. Lay a dumpling wrapper in your hand and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle. Brush a little water on the edge of the wrapper, fold over into a semicircle, and seal the top by firmly squeezing the edges together. Start on one end of the semicircle and create pleats by pinching and pressing the edges tightly, about 10–14 pleats per dumpling. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the vinegar and the ginger in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet (frying pan) over medium heat, add the pot stickers and ½ cup (120 ml) water, and cover the pan. Cook for 20 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the bottoms of the pot stickers are golden brown. Transfer to a serving plate, garnish with cilantro (coriander), if using, and serve with the dipping sauce.

///

Notes on dumpling varieties

Dumplings have been around since the very early ages, but the first mention of them in China was during the Han Dynasty about 1800 years ago, when they were called “half-moon shape wonton”. Filling wrapped in a sheet of pastry and made into a half-moon shape, dumplings eventually took on two basic forms, jiaozi (餃子), and wonton(餛飩). Jiaozi retain the original half-moon shape to this day, and have become a staple diet in northern, eastern and western China. Wontons, on the other hand, are round, and usually made with a thinner pastry wrapping, and have different names depending on the area. Wonton is a favorite comfort food throughout China and is always served in a soup.

JIAOZI

Jiaozi can be boiled, steamed or pan fried. They’re called “shuijiao” (水餃) when boiled, “zhengjiao” (蒸餃) when steamed, and “guotie” (鍋貼) when pan-fried. Here are some regioinal variations:

Northern China Jiaozi is usually made out of minced meat mixed with either fresh or preserved vegetables, usually pork, lamb or beef mixed with Chinese cabbage or chives. Mushrooms, carrots are sometimes added. A very popular “beef guotie” in the Tianjin area is opened on both ends, different from the dumpling of the same name in East China which is totally closed.

Eastern China Jiaozi is often made with pork and vegetables, although a vegetarian steamed dumpling is also very popular. Guotie, or pot sticker, is made out of a thicker skin than jiaozi, and is more suitable for pan frying.

Western China Jiaozi comes with a variety of fillings and jiaozi banquet, a favorite meal in the city of Xian, serves up to 20 to 30 different jiaozi, each with a different filling, and crafted into different shapes.

WONTON

Wonton is the name commonly used in most areas of China. In the south, they are usually made with shrimp and meat fillings, whereas in East China, pork and vegetable are often used. In Sichuan, wonton is made by inserting one end of the wonton skin into the other end, much like inserting the hands into the sleeve of the other hand. (Traditionally a Chinese jacket has long and loose sleeves.) This s called “chaoshou” (抄手), which means folding the hands.

Dumplings, either jiaozi or wonton, are an important part of Chinese cuisine. Each usually contains a combination of meat, vegetable and starch and is a good way of getting a balanced nutrition. They are great as breakfast, lunch, dinner or just as a snack, and are very popular as fast food. In Northern China, jiaozi has a special significance during the lunar new-year festivities. Member of the family who are away from home will return and the whole family will get together on new-year’s eve to make jiaozi. Everyone, whether old or young, man or woman, participates. Some making the dough, others make the filling, still others will wrap the filling in dough sheets into jiaozi, and one will have the responsibility to boil the jiaozi.

///

These recipes are taken from China: The Cookbook by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan, published by Phaidon. Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan will be touring Australia in November. For event details, click here.