Ingredients and How to Prepare Dough and Filling
“So, if you were to eat just the skin of the dumpling, it would be simultaneously chewy and crispy, with a bit of savory meat ﬂavor mixed in with a burnt taste off the bottom—a wonderfulness that the words of the English language are hard-pressed to capture” –Lily Wong
In order to achieve this “wonderfulness,” the dough must first be made from scratch. The typical ingredients for the dough for boiled jiaozi are two cups of all-purpose flour and ¾ cup cold water, which can be prepared in a food processor but would have been traditionally prepared by hand (Lin 135-136).
“Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water while you mix with your fingers or chopsticks until the dough just holds together. Knead the dough in the bowl to gather up any bits of dough into a ball. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Place it on a lightly floured work surface and knead for at least 5 minutes, or until it is very smooth. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes” (Lin 136)
Guotie (potsticker) dough is very similar to boiled jiaozi dough in that it requires 2 cups of all-purpose flour and ¾ cup of boiling water (Lin 142). Moveover, zhengjiao (steamed dumpling) dough is the same recipe as for boiled dumplings. To form the wrappers and making the boiled dumplings:
“Divide the dumpling dough in half. Keep one half under plastic wrap while you knead the other for a few turns; then roll it with your hands into a cylinder about 12 inches long and 1 inch wide. Break or cut this into fifteen pieces. Sprinkle some flour on the pieces and move them around so that the cut side is lightly coated (this will prevent them from sticking together), then press with the palm of your hand to flatten each piece. Cover the disks with plastic wrap.
Taking one disk of dough, press it with the heel of your hand to flatten it some more; then, with a small rolling pin, roll it into a circle 3 inches in diameter. To make the circle as perfect as possible, the rolling pin should be rolled with the palm of one hand while you feed and turn the disk of dough counterclockwise with the fingers of the other hand. Try to roll from the edges to the center, so the edges are thinner than the center. Stack the wrappers so they overlap. If you have a noodle-making machine, roll out the dough by machine at the next-to-last setting and then cut the sheet with a cookie cutter into 3-inch rounds. When you have formed these fifteen wrappers, fill them before working the other half of the dough.” (Lin 137)
“But what about the filling? To me, it’s a bit peripheral. The dumplings I’m talking about have a standard pork filling with “Chinese vegetables.” I’ve never been entirely sure what these elusively named Chinese vegetables actually are, but I imagine that they are some combination of leeks and Chinese cabbage. They’re not too salty and they don’t have cilantro. These dumplings also have enough savory broth secretly sequestered inside the skin so that when you cut them open, you get some oil spatterings, pretty much all over your clothes, plate, and table. That’s the sign of a good, moist, and juicy meat section.” -Lily Wong
Along these lines, traditional filling ingredients are meat and vegetables, also known as Beijing-style jiaozi, which is the most popular (Lin 135). If you prefer, however, you can also stuff them with a vegetarian filling or fish, though the traditional filling is usually ground pork, garlic chives, and cabbage (Simonds 14). According to Liu, “the stuffing is what differentiates the type of dumpling” (as opposed to the preparation method) and pork mixed with vegetables is the most typical (46). The typical ingredients for the filling include:
- Celery cabbage (Napa cabbage), Chinese cabbage (bok choy), or green cabbage
- Dried black Chinese mushrooms
- Fresh ginger
- Scallions or Chinese chives
- Ground pork
- Chicken broth or water
- Light soy sauce
- Dry sherry
- Corn or peanut oil
- Sesame oil (Lin 136)
Lin goes on to say that the filling should be “shiny, fragrant, and light, but it should hold together” (137). Similar to boiled jiaozi, guotie can be filled with the traditional pork-and-vegetable filling, as well as beef or shrimp (Lin 142). According to Liu, the most refined stuffing would be the combination of sea cucumber, pork, and shrimp, also known as sanxian or “three fresh meats” (46).