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By Dan Peirce
Every now and then, my mom and I used to spend Sunday mornings making dozens of pork dumplings – jiao zi in Mandarin Chinese – and then eating them while watching our favorite football team on TV in the afternoon. Some of my best childhood memories growing up with my Chinese mother are associated with this Sunday activity. Who knew that our little tradition actually had roots in Lunar New Year?
Jiao zi originated in Northern China and were originally eaten during the Lunar New Year to bring good luck, according to Wilson Tang in “The Nom Wah Cookbook.” My take on this recipe is 20% childhood memory and 80% cross-checking quantities on whatever website seems close. I hope you make these for the Lunar New Year or maybe even for Sunday football!
Dough for Wrappers
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- ½ lb each of ground pork and shrimp (although any combination of pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and/or shrimp that adds up to one pound will do depending on your budget and taste buds!)
- ½ pound finely chopped spinach (I use frozen that’s thawed and squeezed to remove moisture)
- ½ lb finely shredded cabbage
- ¼ lb minced scallions
- ¼ lb finely chopped mushrooms
- 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3-4 good grinds of the pepper mill
Makes about 48 dumplings.
- Make dough for wrappers:
Mix in water very slowly into your flour until the dough is moist enough so that it holds together well. I think chopsticks work best for mixing, but a fork or clean hands will do. On a lightly floured surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes or so. Now on to the filling.
- Filling: Mix all filling ingredients well and then get ready to make the wrappers!
- Fetch your dough and divide into two equal portions, always keeping the dough you’re NOT using covered so it retains moisture. Roll out one portion into about a foot long cylinder and cut 1/4” portions with a sharp knife. Press each small circle into a larger flat circle, roll out, turn 90 degrees and roll again. Et voila, you should have a 3-4” circular dough wrapper. You can also roll one portion of dough into about a flat 16”x16” square sheet and cut out 3-4” circles using a cookie cutter if you’d prefer and recycle your scraps to keep making sheets to cut.
- Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each round wrapper. Fold the dough over to make a half moon, pinch the edges together to seal in a crimping fashion, and then set the pot sticker down with the pinched seam side up. There are many fancy ways to seal a pot sticker, but I prefer keeping it simple because at this point in the recipe I’m getting hungry. Have I mentioned that this recipe works best with two people? That way you have a roller and a filler and can get to the cooking – and eating – even faster.
- To begin cooking, heat 1 tbsp cooking oil (I use grapeseed oil because it has a high smoke point) at medium-high heat in a deep, wide bottomed frying pan with a lid. Cook until the bottoms are brown and a little crusty. Then add ½ cup water and immediately cover the pan. It will steam up with a loud sizzle, so be quick! Reduce the heat to low and then cook for 10-12 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Gently remove with a wide spatula keeping in mind that the dumplings may stick a little (hence the alternate name pot stickers), serve with a soy sauce and vinegar dressing maybe with a splash of your favorite hot sauce. Extra points for using chopsticks to eat your homemade jiao zi. Enjoy!