Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chinese Dumplings (饺子)

Mommy helped me with these.

I'm a complete jiaozi amateur.

These are eaten all year round in China but it's one of those things that you must eat on Chinese New Year.  I remember my grandparents making these in the kitchen every Chinese New Year --my grandmother making the fillings and my grandfather making the dough.  Shame I won't be spending Chinese New Year with them this year :(  For the first time I won't be in China for Chinese New Year. God. What am I supposed to do, go to China Town? :(  I'm a Northerner, I feel like China Town is filled with Southerners.  We don't eat the same thing!  Oh it's so soon...It's going to be the year of the Dragon.  It doesn't really mean anything but it's just if you're curious.  Are you a Dragon, you ask?  Well, if you're turning 12, 24, 36, 48, 50, 62... you are.  Every 12 years it repeats.  I'm a Monkey.

To make the filling
We made 2 fillings, one vegetarian with eggs, onions and spinach.  Another with minced pork and onions only.

1. Scramble some eggs, set aside.  Blanch the spinach in hot water until wilted, mix with eggs.  Fry the onions until translucent and fragrant, mix with spinach and egg mixture.  Season to taste with soya sauce and sesame oil.

2. Sautee some onions and once translucent add the minced pork and cook over medium high heat until..cooked.  Season with soya sauce, sesame oil and 5 spice.

(See below for more filling ideas) 

To make the dough
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup water

Gradually add the water to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it just comes together as a dough.  It should be a very soft dough but it shouldn't stick to your hands, so adjust the amount of flour and water accordingly. Leave that in a bowl, cover with cling film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Take the dough onto a floured surface.  Knead for a couple of minutes.  Roll into a hoop, cut in the middle so it becomes a long tube, about 1 inch in diameter.  Then just cut it into 1 inch cubes.

Press down on them so they become little circles.  Adjust the cube to more of a cylindrical tube before you press down on them.

Then the difficult stuff.  I do this at the speed of a turtle, pros like my grandfather do it at the flash of light.  So here's the difficult bit, you're meant to have the dough skin so that the middle is thicker than the outside.  Now in all honesty I don't know if this is necessary.  I heard you could simply roll out the dough and cut out little circles with a cookie cutter and so it's all the same thickness.  My mom swears that with that way it tastes awful.  I hear that the thick in the middle way is only for steamed dumplings. But, again, mommy swears that they're different.

So hold the round discs by one end and with the other hand on the rolling pin, roll to just about half way, then with your other hand turn it gently and repeat. So you're turning and rolling at the same time, resulting in a round piece of skin that's thick in the middle and thin on the outside. 

Then you put a reasonable amount of filling onto the center and you close it up with your hands like so.  There are many ways of enclosing this, it doesn't matter how you do it, I find this to be the easiest way, just make sure it's nicely shut.  Use some water to help the skins stick together if necessary. Remember to keep the filling right in the center, so it doesn't burst while cooking.  

There should be no air bubbles, so close them tightly!

Put them in boiling water for a couple of minutes until they float.  Take them out and serve with Chinese vinegar and a dash of sesame oil.  The Chinese vinegar, Lao Chen Cu, is easily found in all Asian supermarkets, however, if you can't find them, serve with a mixture of soya sauce and white wine vinegar instead.

The traditional ones are cabbage with minced pork, cabbage with minced beef.  Remember that everything in the filling must be cooked, because these dumplings will only be blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes to cook the dough.  Good vegetarian ones are basically scrambled eggs with some other vegetable.  Scrambled eggs and cabbage, scrambled eggs and dill, scrambled eggs and julienne carrots and mushrooms.  Something with shrimps maybe. Shrimps and eggs, shrimps and rice noodles.  Seasoning is typically with soya sauce and sesame oil.  With spices, 5 spice is often used.  Be creative.

Other ideas
Have you seen those pretty colored dumplings? So easy to make, it's simply a colored juice, instead of water, added to the flour to make the dough.  You can puree some spinach and strain it to obtain a green juice;  do the same for carrots for something orange; beets... What else...

Oh look there's a site here dedicated to Asian dumplings! Be inspired!

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