Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jiaozi, jiaozi

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was thinking about making jiaozi... and the next day I did! I even managed to take photos to go along with it, but I've been putting it off since then. It's now time to put it on.

Making Jiaozi

Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, have always been an important part of my childhood. I remember "helping" my mom roll out the dough - usually by playing with the dough until it dried out - and having eating contests with family and friends. It was often a big event, getting together - the adults sitting and talking as they assembled the jiaozi so that we could eat all the yumminess.

Since I've started cooking, I've made them three or four times, and I'm starting to hone in on a balance that I like. I even took notes - although, I was making a double batch this night, and may have been a little inconsistent with whether my notes were for 1 or 2 batches. Oh well. Feel free to play around with the proportions of the filling. I use Napa cabbage and pork, but you can use a different meat (beef is also popular) and other veggies.

Plan on a few hours of preparation time, at first, just to be safe. Making the dumplings can be a time-consuming process, but with practice, it will take a lot less time and work than you (or at least I) might think.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1 lb. Napa cabbage

  • 1 t. salt

  • 1 lb. ground pork

  • 1/3 lb. chopped scallions

  • 1.5 oz. minced ginger

  • 3 cloves minced garlic

  • 4T soy sauce

  • 5T sesame oil

  • 4T rice vinegar
The green cabbage pictured is sequestered off to the side a bit because it's not technically part of the filling. More on it way at the bottom.

    Skin:

  • 1 lb flour (around 3 c. or you can use the cool kitchen scale your significant other gave you for Christmas), plus more for kneading between 3/4 c. and 1 c. of cold water



Directions

    Preparation

    Filling:

  1. Chop cabbage until fine. (This time around I tried using a food processor, and it was a bit of disaster - the cabbage got a little too fine, and the texture and water level got all messed up.) I suggest using a giant knife instead. Mix the cabbage with the salt in a bowl, let it sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the excess water
  2. Mix the filling ingredients, except for the pork, and season to taste. Definitely err on the side of too much flavor, at this point, because adding the pork and then cooking (at least if you boil) will result in loss of flavor. Alternatively, I suppose you could test the seasoning after you've added the raw meat, but I wouldn't recommend it.

  3. Add the pork and mix well.


  4. Skin:

  5. In a big bowl, stir the water into the flour and knead into a smooth dough. It's a bit drier a dough than I'm used to, but don't be put off if it doesn't seem especially squishy or anything. Just make sure it's smooth and definitely shouldn't be sticky. Let the dough stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Smiley face, optional.


  6. Roll the dough out into a long snake...


    ... and then cut into 50 pieces. Or you can split it, and do it in 2 batches of 25.












  7. Now, start squishing the pieces of dough.



  8. Then, roll them out into 2-3 inch circles on a lightly floured surface. Make sure not to roll them too thin, otherwise they'll break when you fill them and the tasty insides will try to escape. Repeat this until you've got a nice tall stack of skins, ready to go.



  9. Be warned, the longer the skins sit, the drier they're going to get. Especially if it takes you a while to assemble your dumplings, it may be a good idea to split the batch in two like I mentioned earlier. You can keep the other half covered in a bowl where it won't dry out by the time you're ready to do the next 25. Also, watch out that your stack of skins don't start getting too friendly, and end up sticking together. Hopefully the flour will be an adequate chaperone.

  10. OK, now we're ready to put these little fellas together. Pick up a skin and stick some of your filling in the center.
  11. How you actually pinch it closed is up to you, but here's how my mom taught me to do it: Pinch two sides together in the center, gather up the open ends, and then pinch it all together.















































And hopefully you'll end up with something like this. Make sure it's pinched securely closed!




After you've assembled enough to cook - say, 20-25 depending on the size of your cooking hardware (and again, don't wait too long to avoid the dough drying out too much) - it's time for the next step!


Cooking

Now it's finally time to actually start cooking these things. You've got 3 main options: boil, steam, or fry. I've never fried them, except when heating up leftovers, so I don't really have much input.

Boiling

Boiling is simple and what my family usually does. Just fill up a big pot of water, bring to a boil, and gently drop a bunch into the water. Stir them gently so that they don't stick to the pot or each other. Once the water returns to a boil and they start floating, they should be about done.

Steaming

What I've done the last two times is to steam them. We have a bamboo steamer, which I usually stick on top of a wok filled with water. You can see the setup below. You'll need to line the steamer with something, wax paper works really well, but this last time I tried using cabbage leaves. (That's why the green cabbage in the picture way at the top is there.) It worked surprisingly well, although it's tough to get the leaves to lay flat.














When the water starts boiling, it's time to start putting our dumplings in. Try not to overfill the steamer, as I did this time around, otherwise you end up with jiaozi that are stuck together and fall apart when you take them out. Close the steamer, and let them cook for about 10 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Take them out, and consume! Preferably with a little dipping sauce - I like soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil, but experiment - spicy stuff can be good.

Especially if you're doing multiple batches, keep an eye on the water level so you don't ruin your pan.

Here's the finished product.




Let me know how yours turn out. And don't forget dessert!



This dish is Cadie approved.