It seems every culture has its own version of dumplings, whether it’s Japanese gyoza, Italian ravioli or Nepalese momo. Just check out this CNN list of mouthwatering dumplings from around the world.
In many countries, dumplings were traditionally considered peasant food. They were easy to make, using inexpensive and readily available ingredients, and they filled you up. But the lowly dumpling has come a long way from its humble origins and become an important part of many cuisines today. Think Polish food and the first thing that comes to mind is probably pierogi, or Chinese food, and you conjure up images of wonton or all the array of dumplings you can get at dim sum. Dumplings provide a simple but hearty and delicious meal. Who doesn’t like dumplings of one kind or another?
Personally, my favourite kind of dumplings are jiaozi, which are Chinese dumplings filled with meat and vegetables that are boiled and then eaten with some kind of dipping sauce. For many years, Cantonese food has been the most well-known Chinese cuisine outside of China, and hence, I was always more familiar with dumplings such as wonton or dim sum items like har gow and siew mai. I’d never actually had jiaozi until I first went to Dalian in northeastern China many years ago. That was when I realized just how popular these dumplings were. In northern China, it’s the custom for families to gather and eat jiaozi at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It seems everyone knows how to make these dumplings. Some people even have jiaozi on a weekly basis.
There was this one hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Dalian that must’ve been run by Muslim Chinese, because all they sold were these beef and onion dumplings with a kind of horseradish dipping sauce. I totally fell in love with these dumplings and even now, I can probably still say that they were the best dumplings I’ve ever had. Soon after, I learned how to make dumplings, and all I’ve ever made since are dumplings with beef or pork and onions. I even wanted to recreate the same kind of sauce, so I mixed wasabi in soy sauce. This is still my favourite dipping sauce for dumplings.
I’ve never come across meat and onion jiaozi anywhere else in China. Usually, you’ll get dumplings filled with pork and chives or pork and cabbage. Recently, I decided to go with the traditional and found this excellent pork and chive dumpling recipe.
Happy Cooking and Happy Chinese New Year!
(Adapted from The Woks of Life)
PORK AND CHIVE DUMPLINGS (Makes approximately 120 dumplings)
350 g Chinese chives, finely chopped (green parts only)
750 g ground pork (or substitute ground chicken or beef, as long as it’s not too lean)
1/3 cup shaoxing wine
½ cup oil
3 tablespoons sesame oil
¼ tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cup water, plus more for assembly
3 packages dumpling wrappers
1) Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, until it almost looks like a paste.
2) Prepare a small bowl of water. Place about a teaspoonful of filling into the centre of a dumpling wrapper.
3) Use the water to dampen around the edge of the wrapper.
4) Fold in half and seal tightly with your fingers.
5) Once all the dumplings are made, bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop the dumplings in.
6) Cook until the dumplings float to the top and start to look translucent.
7) Serve hot with black vinegar and/or chili sauce.
Tip: These can be made ahead of time and frozen. Once you make the dumplings, lay them out, separated, on a baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and place the dumplings in a resealable bag. So any time you want a quick and easy meal, just place the frozen dumplings directly into a pot of boiling water to cook, and they’ll be ready to eat in minutes!