After cooking for a while now, I realize that dumplings are so widely found around the globe. Each country has its own version of dumplings. When I said dumplings, of course it’s a very broad term. When something is wrapped with a flour dough, it’s pretty much a dumpling. The filling can vary anyway you want it, savory or sweet, vegetables or meat.
Jiao zi is also a general term for dumplings in Chinese cookery. It is called jiao zi because of its horn shape. If you are new to Asian cooking, you may be wondering, how about wontons ? aren’t they considered dumplings ? yes they are, but they aren’t considered in the jiao zi’s group. The skins used to wrap the fillings for jiao zi and wonton are different though. Jiao zi’s skin is made of just flour and water, hence the “paler” color, while wonton’s skin is made of egg, flour and water and you can tell from its yellowish color. Jiao zi is usually served without any soup, while wontons are usually served in broth or deep-fried.
If I’m allowed to confuse you further, like I said earlier, jiao zi is just a broad term for Chinese dumplings. Depending on how you cook the dumplings, they have different names too. If you just boil the dumplings and serve it as is with dipping sauce, then it is called jiao zi in Chinese, the Tibetan calls it momos. If you pan-fried the dumplings, then it is called pot sticker/guo tie or the Japanese call it Gyoza. I like them all.
Jiao zi is usually made with meat fillings along with chives and leeks (at least my version). This may vary slightly too from recipe to recipe. It’s not difficult to make your own jiao zi once you get a hang of it and they can be delicious appetizers in no time.
- 1 lb ground pork loin
- 1¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 (3-inch) piece of fresh ginger (peeled and grate with microplane)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ cup minced chives (discard bottom inch)
- ½ cup of leeks (just use the green part, finely chopped)
- ½ tsp grated garlic (2 cloves)
- ½ tbsp sugar
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup of water to start with up to about 1 cup
- ¼ tsp of salt
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup Chinese black vinegar
- 1-2 red bird's eye chili (finely chopped)-optional
- Mix the soy sauce, black vinegar and chili (if using) in a bowl and set aside
- In a bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and put in the refrigerator while you prepare the skin. This can be made ahead up to 24 hours
- In a large mixing bowl, add in the flour and salt. Stir to mix. Slowly add in the water and use your hand to knead until you form a non-sticky dough, if the dough is still too dry to work with, you can add a little bit water until it doesn't stick to your hand. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Cover with a damp clean towel and set aside for at least 30 minutes
- When ready to make the skin, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces, then cut each piece into 10 equal pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces covered with plastics. Roll each piece into a ball and on a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough into a disk. With a rolling pin, roll it out until it is approximately 4 inches in diameter
- Take one of the wrapper and place about 1 Tbsp of the filling in the middle of the dough, Using your index finger, run a thin layer of water along half of the inner rim and press both sides together to create a tight seal, forming the shape of a half circle. Make some pleats starting from the middle to each side on top of the wrapper. Continue to work with the rest of the filling. You don't have to make pleats if you don't want to, just stop at half circle and continue making the rest of the dumplings. Cover the dumplings with damp cloth as you are working with the rest
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop the dumplings in, they will sink to the bottom and let them. Once they float to the top, you know they are done. Remove with slotted spoon to serving platter and serve with the dipping sauce