What are Chinese dumplings?
Dumplings or “jiaozi” in Cantonese (Chinese: 餃子; “tɕjàu.tsɨ”) are parcels of dough stuffed with meat, fish and/or vegetables. They are boiled, steamed or baked in a pan. The best-known dumplings are filled with minced pork and cabbage, with or without shrimp, and flavoured with ingredients, such as Chinese chives and garlic. Anything goes though, from vegetarian dumplings with shiitake to apple and walnut filling with anise cream.
Dumplings have been around for centuries. They were mentioned for the first time in a book from the era of the Three Kingdoms in the years 220-280 and have had their current crescent shape for at least a thousand years. They are named after the time period around midnight on New Year’s Eve, from eleven to one o’clock. This period is also called “jiaozi”.
Consequently, dumplings are an important part of the Chinese New Year and bring happiness and joy. As the dumplings have the same shape as the gold pieces of the past, it is also believed that they bring wealth.
Dumplings are traditionally a North Chinese dish and are still mostly eaten in the northern regions. In South China, dumplings are made with a sheet of rice flour instead of wheat flour.
Chinese dumplings are a type of dim sum. Other types of dim sum include bao (steamed buns) and fried snacks. Dim sum is mainly eaten during the weekend, but dumplings appear on the table all the time, from early in the morning until late at night – as a snack, side dish or as a way of ending the meal.
Did you know?
People sometimes hide a coin in one of the dumplings. The person who finds the coin is lucky all year round.
How to prepare Chinese dumplings
For a typical Chinese jiaozi, mix finely chopped cabbage with minced pork, small pieces of spring onion, Chinese chives, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. It is important that the meat is not too lean or the filling will soon be too dry. Scoop a small amount of filling, at most a tablespoon, onto round dumpling sheets. Fold the sheets into half-moon shapes and press shut. The edge often gets beautiful folds.
Now, there are three ways in which dumplings can be prepared. They can be cooked (shuijiao) in a pan of boiling water, just like gnocchi. They can also be steamed (zhengjiao) in a bamboo steam basket or they can be prepared as potstickers (guotie), in which the dumpling is first fried in a pan until crispy, then steamed to cook the filling, and finally, baked.
Dumplings are served with a dipping sauce consisting of soy sauce, rice vinegar, spring onion, sesame oil and a little pepper.
How to eat Chinese dumplings
Chinese dumplings are eaten with chopsticks.