The Complete Guide to Authentic Chinese Dumplings

The Complete Guide to Authentic Chinese Dumplings

Everything you wanted to know about Chinese dumplings including the different types, how to make authentic Chinese dumplings, filling recipes, dipping sauces, and more.

The humble Chinese dumpling, or jiaozi (餃子) has a history of more than 1,800 years being a traditional specialty food and a staple food and local snack with so many regional variants. They are also symbolic of Chinese New Year.

Dumplings originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), and at that time, the dumplings were medicinal and created by the famed Chinese pharmacologist, physician, inventor, and writer of the Eastern Han dynasty, Zhang Zhongjing (張仲景; 150—219 AD). He created dumplings with mutton and medicinal herb fillings to help ‘warm’ people who were experiencing frostbitten ears during northern winters.

Dumpling Types

Dumpling is actually a fairly broad category in China and here I will introduce the key types although most of this article will be focused solely on jiaozi.

Jiǎozi (餃子)

is the most common Chinese dumpling. They have numerous filling variants and can be boiled, steamed or fried. They are also symbolic of Chinese New Year and the Winter solstice.

Potsickers, guotie (鍋貼)

simply Jiaozi that are wrapped differently and cooked in a pan instead of being boiled to create a distinctly different product.

Wonton (雲呑/餛飩)

popular throughout southern China they are wrapped differently and made with a meat or shrimp filling and served in a chicken broth. Wonton can also be deep fried. They use a different skin to jiaozi.

Cantonese dim sum (點心)

Dim sum features numerous dumpling variations including har gow, siew mai, lo mai gai and crystal dumplings. They all use different skin to jiaozi.

Zongzi (粽子)

are triangle or cone shaped, glutinous rice dumplings that can be filled with red bean paste, Chinese dates or cured meat depending on region. Glutinous rice dumplings are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (端午節).

Xiaolongbao (小籠包)

are a soup dumpling. They use a similar but larger and thicker skin than jioazi and contain a ground pork and soup mixture.

Tangyuan (湯圓)

are smaller dumplings made with glutinous rice flour and filled with sweet sesame, peanut, red bean paste. Tangyuan may also be served without a filling. Tangyuan are eaten on the 15th day of Chinese New Year, or the Lantern Festival.

Momo (饃饃)

is a Tibetan dumpling and popular through southern Asia. It is very similar to jiaozi although sometimes much larger with unique fillings such as cheese, pork, chicken, goat meat and buffalo meat. Dipping sauces are also unique using tomato-based chutney.

Yao Gok 油角

Yao Gok is a Cantonese speciality that is popular during Chinese New Year. It is deep fried and has a peanut, sesame and sugar filling.

Making Authentic Chinese Dumplings

There are four simple steps packed with complexity, a) making the filling, b) make the dumpling wrappers or skins, c) fill and wrap the dumpling, and d) boiling/frying.

A. Dumpling fillings

There are endless recipes for dumpling fillings and every household will undoubtedly have it’s own passed down from family member to family member. Dumpling stuffing is mainly divided into meat filling, meat and vegetable filling, and vegetarian filling.

Pork is the most popular filling ingredient. Rather than ground pork it is hand-chopped which creates a more even consistency to take on the flavors of the seasoning and improved mouthfeel. A small amount of water is added to the meat so it doesn’t dry out during cooking, along with chopped green onion, ginger, pepper or allspice, salt, a small amount of soy sauce, and cooking wine. Note water is added after the seasonings. If the meat is very lean you may add some oil then stir evenly in one direction, then adjust the saltiness. You can also use this method to make beef and mutton filling.

The typical Pork dumpling stuffing recipe

Ingredients: pork 500 g; cabbage 1000 g; ginger powder 15 g; diced green onion 30 g; salt 15 g; pepper 5 g; cooking wine 25 g; MSG 15 g; sesame oil 25 g; vegetable oil 25 g;

1. wash the cabbage and cut into fine slices, and mix well with vegetable oil.
2. Cut the pork into fine granules and with ginger, diced green onion, salt, pepper, cooking wine, msg, sesame oil, and then add the cabbage. Stir together.
3. refrigerate for 20 mins

note:
1. The ratio of fat to lean meat of pork is 4:6.
2. Some people like to add some vinegar to the chopped cabbage, wait, and then squeeze out any excess water

B. Dumpling skins

Dumpling wrappers are readily available in most supermarkets and Asian supermarkets. Alternatively, you can make your own

Ingredients

  • 420g all-purpose flour. The most common is wheat flour, and some places use buckwheat flour.
  • 210ml water. Use cool water.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

After kneading the dough for a few minutes, shape into a ball and let it rest 20 minutes so the flour can absorb the water. Knead again for 5 or so minutes until it is smooth and elastic, shape into a ball.

Place the kneaded dough on the chopping board and knead it into a cylindrical strip with a diameter of 2-3 cm. Cut into small pieces of about 1.5 cm. Squash by hand and then use a rolling pin to form a dumpling skin with a moderate diameter (4-7 cm) and a thickness of about 0.5-1 mm.

C. Stuffing the dumpling and pinching

Add a heaped teaspoon of the filling to the wrapper and be careful not to spread the filling too close to the edge. In a bowl, add a little water and cornstarch. Moisten the outer edge of the dumpling wrapper with the cornstarch mix and fold the edges over the meat and pinch to seal. It’s important to not have any filling on the edges so as to get a good seal, thus, in many cases less filling is better, noting that the seal is critical.

For the various ways to fold/pinch dumplings, here’s a great video

D. Cooking the dumpling

Four ways to cook your fresh dumplings

1. Boiling

Boil enough water in the pot, add the dumplings, stir and stir in the pan to prevent the pan from sticking. After returning to the boil, pour in a cup of cold water, cover the lid, boil again and then pour a cup of cold water again. After a total of three cups of cold water, turn off the heat. And they are ready.

2. Frying

In a pot or wok, heat the oil to 160 °C and deep-fry the dumplings about 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper or rack.

3. Steam

Bring the pot water to the boil. Add a slice of carrot under each dumpling and place it in the steamer basket (or use parchment). Place onto pot and steam for around ten minutes.

4. Potstickers

Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add 10 or so dumplings and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the bottoms are browned. Add 1/3 cup water and cover with a lid. In about 5 minutes the water should be gone and they are ready.

Dumpling dipping sauces

In the supermarket look for naturally brewed, light soy sauce. Lee Kum Kee is a solid brand. Sichuan pepper oil (prickly ash) is also a nice addition to soy if you can find it along with chili oils.

Simple spicy sauce
Ingredients: Chili powder 4tsp, toasted white sesame seeds 4tsp, garlic 4 cloves, green onion 5, rice wine vinegar 4 tsp, soy sauce 4tsp, vegetable oil 3 tbsp
Process: finely chop garlic, onions, and place in a heatproof bowl with paprika and sesame seeds. Heat oil, pour into the bowl and add soy, vinegar, and stir.

Simple Sesame
Ingredients: 1 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp soy sauce – combine

Simple ginger garlic
Ingredients: 1 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp soy sauce, finely chopped garlic 1tsp, finely chopped ginger 1 tsp – combine all

Xiuying’s dumpling sauce
Ingredients: amounts as desired – Green onions, garlic, ginger, chopped chili or chili powder, rice wine vinegar, salt, chicken powder (or chicken stock powder), soy sauce
Process: add garlic and ginger to a heatproof bowl. Heat some oil, and add to bowl. Add other ingredients and stir.

Mama Zhang’s  sauce
Ingredients: sesame seeds 1tsp, soy sauce 1tbsp, Laoganma sauce 1tbsp, rice wine vinegar 1tbsp, sugar 1tbsp, Sesame oil 1/2 tsp, garlic 1 clove finely chopped
Process: mix all together

More dumpling filling recipes

These are all authentic Chinese dumplings filling recipes. You can safely exclude the MSG should you wish.

Coriander dumplings
Ingredients: 250 grams of coriander, 150 grams of minced/chopped pork, soy sauce, cooking wine, salt, msg, sesame oil
Process: 1. wash the coriander and chop, mix with a little sesame oil. 2. combine pork with a dash of cooking wine, soy, msg, and salt, and mix well. 3. Finally, add the coriander and stir well.

Fennel dumplings
Ingredients: 1 fennel, 1 ounce of pork, 375 grams of seasoning wine, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, half a teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of water, sesame oil 4 tablespoons
Process: Wash the fennel and chop, chop the minced meat and mix thoroughly with all the seasonings, and then mix with the fennel to make the filling.

Tomato egg dumplings
Ingredients: 300 grams of cooked eggs (fried) and 300 grams of tomatoes; 8 grams of onion, 5 grams of ginger, 6 grams of salt, 5 grams of sugar, 10 grams of sesame oil.
Process:  1, the egg into the oil pan stir fry (to be tender) 2, tomato diced 3, add seasoning, mix well clockwise

Leek and shrimp dumplings
Ingredients: 150 grams of shrimp, 150 grams of lean pork, 150 grams of fresh amaranth; ginger, leek
Process: Cut the lean pork to about 0.4 cm, add the wine and soy sauce for more than 20 minutes, and take the shrimp and cut to the same size as pork, add a small amount of soy sauce and cooking wine and marinate for 20 minutes. Chop the leek, add finely chopped ginger, salt, msg, a pinch of five spice, a dash of peanut oil, a dash of sesame oil, and stir the meat and shrimp evenly.

Fish dumplings
Ingredients: 700 grams of peeled fish, 50 grams of pork fat, 200 grams of garlic chives, 50 grams of green onion, cooking wine, ginger, salt, msg, broth.
Process:
1. Chop/mash the fish. Cut the pork fat meat into fine pieces. Chop the chives.
2. Combine the fish, wine, onion, ginger, MSG, salt, and stir, and finally, add fat meat, and chives. Mix until elastic, and add a little water if necessary.

Pork mushroom dumplings
Ingredients: Pork 400 grams, Dried shiitake mushrooms 15, green onion 50 gm, salt, Oyster sauce  10 gm, soy sauce 15 gm, vegetable oil
Process: Soak the mushrooms with warm water for about an hour, drain while saving the water, slice then dice into small cubes. Chop the onions. Chop the pork finely and add a little of the mushroom water. Keep stirring the meat until it becomes gooey. Add everything together, stir again.

Folk customs surrounding dumplings

Chinese New Year
Eating dumplings is also a folk tradition unique to the Chinese during the Spring Festival/CNY. The custom of eating dumplings varies from place to place with some places eating dumplings on New Year’s Eve, and some places eat dumplings on the first day of the new year. In Chinese, the word for dumplings 饺子 sounds like 交子 with 交 (Jiāo) meaning “exchange” and 子(zi) meaning midnight hours.

Eating dumplings during the Spring Festival means good luck. In addition, dumplings are shaped like ingots, and dumplings mean that they are wrapped in good fortune.

Winter solstice
In the northern region, there is the Winter Solstice Festival (冬至) and dumplings are again an integral feature of traditional customs at this time.

Symbolic meaning
Dumplings are not just a kind of food, but also a representative of Chinese cuisine, and an integral feature of the culture. They are also used symbolically echoing aspirations.

  • Celery stuffing – that is, the meaning of diligence and wealth. Diligence: diligence, hard work; often, diligent (frequent) continuous, that is, diligent. It is a blessing for a steady stream of material wealth; it is a blessing for hard work and pragmatism.
  • Leek stuffing – that is, the meaning of long-term wealth. It is a material wealth that prays for a blessing for a long time, and hope that people will last forever – health, harmony, happiness.
  • Cabbage stuffing – that is, the meaning of Baicai. Pray for a hundred kinds of wealth; or a good wish for the newlyweds.
  • Mushroom stuffing – that is, the meaning of the drums. Drum: It rises and bulges. The shape of the mushroom is like an upward arrow or the momentum of the stock market. It is upward and full of drums, which means that it is a good thing; or it is a good wish for the younger generation to express their hopes.
  • Rapeseed stuffing – that is, there is a fortune. It is rich; you are blessed with wealth, and you are more blessed.
  • Fish stuffing – that is, the meaning of Yucai. Yu: That is, the rest, more, bless you more than a year, that is, the surplus. The hard work is to get wealth, and the rest is health.
  • Beef stuffing – It means the meaning of bullishness, the favorite of the stock market friends, every day in the bull market, the cow is the cow’s wealth; more wish friends are healthy and bullish.
  • Mutton stuffing – that is, the meaning of foreign wealth.
  • Jujube stuffing – symbolic of lucky money is the lucky dumplings.
  • Sweet stuffing –  It is a sweet food or a dumpling, a moon cake, etc.; it is more homogenous with the genius, which means that it is rich.

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