Chinese dumplings are known as jiǎo zi (餃子), or guo tie (鍋貼) (pot stickers) when pan fried. Jiǎo zi are made and eaten throughout the year, but especially during Chinese New Year because they represent wealth and prosperity as they have the shape of gold nuggets, the ancient Chinese currency for money.
Traditionally, jiǎo zi are made with pork, cabbage and shrimp, but to make it healthier, Pó Po (婆婆 – Grandma) uses chopped spinach instead of cabbage. Brandon hates vegetables but loves these jiǎo zi, so it’s a great way to get him to eat his veggies! Pó Po also does not add shrimp when making jiǎo zi with Brandon because he does not like shrimp! You can modify this recipe to your preference since you can pretty much put almost anything you like in jiǎo zi!
Please note that all measurements are estimates. Pó Po doesn’t measure ingredients when she cooks – so these are my best guesses!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
2 cups chopped spinach
2/3 lb ground pork (Pó Po likes to pick out a nice pork tenderloin and then ask the butcher to grind it in front of her)
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄3 cup chopped Chinese chives or scallions
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1 1⁄2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp oil
1 1⁄2 Tbsp sesame oil
MAKING THE DOUGH*:
- Mix the flour and water. Add more flour or water as necessary. The dough should hold its shape when pinched, but it shouldn’t be too moist.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 2 minutes. The dough should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic. Press down on the dough; the impression should slowly bounce back.
- Let the dough rest while you prepare the filling.
PREPARING THE FILLING:
- Combine all the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add seasonings and mix well. Use your hands!
MAKING THE JIǍO ZI WRAPS*:
- Cut the dough into thirds and put two of the thirds back into a bag so it stays fresh as you use it. Seal completely.
- Roll the remaining third of the dough into a 1-inch thick log. Cut the log into even pieces, about 3/4 ” thick each. (If the ends of the log are thinner, make those cuts a bit longer, about 1″ thick.) After each cut, rotate the log a quarter turn, so that the dough pieces are pinched in different directions on each side. This is not absolutely necessary, but it will help in forming perfectly circular jiǎo zi.
- Roll the pieces lightly in flour and then flatten each piece of dough with the palm of your hand. Because of the quarter turn when cutting, the dough will naturally flatten into the shape of a circle. You can simply reshape any pieces that don’t look as perfectly round as they should.
- To roll the wrappers, start with a lightly floured surface. If you’re right-handed, hold one of the flattened pieces of dough in your left hand and the wooden rolling pin in your right. You’ll want to roll the rolling pin gently back and forth, while turning the dough in a counter-clockwise motion in your left hand. Roll up about 1/2″ – 1″ in from the edge, avoiding the center of the dough completely. This way, you’ll leave the center a little thicker — perfect for holding the heavy filling — while making the edges a little thinner — perfect for making delicate pleats to seal the top. After the dumplings are folded and the outer edges pressed together, the thicker center will have about the same amount of doughiness as the outer pleated edges.
- Fill your wrappers with about 1 tablespoon of filling. Flatten the filling a bit in the center. Fold using your favorite method! The Beijing method for boiled dumplings is very easy and involves simply folding the wrapper over, and then pinching it shut by holding the edges between thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Pó Po does it by pinching a small section by section at a time. It looks much more beautiful this way!
- At this point, your dumplings are ready to be fried, boiled, steamed, or frozen.
COOKING THE DUMPLINGS: 4 ways to cook fresh or frozen dumplings
- Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add in the dumplings in a single layer. Leave about 1/8″ between each dumpling because they will plump up.
- Let the dumplings fry until the bottoms are golden brown.
- Add in about 1/3 cup water (until there is about 1/4” of water in the pan) and cover with a lid. Let them steam for about 5-7 minutes, until you hear the dumplings begin to sizzle after all the water has evaporated.
- Remove the lid. The dumplings should look translucent at this point. Fry just a little bit longer, until the bottoms are crispy again.
- Place dumplings into boiling water.
- Once the water boils, add a half a cup of cold water.
- Once the water boils the second time (uncovered), add another half cup of cold water.
- Once the water boils the third time, the dumplings are DONE! Take them out immediately so the wrappers don’t get too soggy.
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large wok. Place dumplings into a bamboo steamer basket and place into the wok.
- Steam for 8 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Heat the oil and deep fry the filled dumplings, a few at a time, for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
- Take them out immediately and serve.
*If you do not have time to prepare the dough and jiǎo zi wraps (or are just feeling lazy!), most supermarkets now sell premade jiǎo zi wraps! Woo hoo!