Homestyle Dumplings for Chinese New Year
February 2, 2024
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At Chinese or Lunar New Year, which ushers in the Year of the Dragon this year on February 10, many Chinese families will enjoy dumplings as part of a sumptuous feast in the hope that they will bring prosperity. The half moon-shaped jiaozi (餃子) aren't served because of their resemblance to the moon which inaugurates Chinese New Year but rather their similarity to the ancient Chinese gold currency called yuanbao – which explains their association with prosperity. When they are boiled, they are called shuijiao (水餃).
"Dumplings are a staple in my family for Chinese New Year (as for many Taiwanese people who have Northern Chinese heritage)," says Rich Wang. Born in Taiwan, Wang moved with his family to the Chicago area when he was fourteen. He wants to bring to Chicago the food that he remembers eating growing up in a section of Taipei, and has spent years preparing to open a homestyle Taiwanese restaurant here – going to culinary school, studying noodle-making in China, refining recipes. Now his plan is nearing fruition: he's hoping to open his restaurant Minyoli in Andersonville in the next few months. (We'll have more information on Minyoli closer to its opening.)
While Minyoli won't feature jiaozi on its opening menu – beef noodle soup will be the main focus – Wang might add them as the restaurant finds its footing. For now, you can try his recipe for them at home to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Boiled Dumplings, or Shuijiao (水餃)
Ground pork sold in Asian supermarkets is coarser than that sold in American supermarkets and yields better results for dumplings. You can use circular store-bought dumpling wrappers in place of the homemade wrappers.
Do not over-mix the filling once the scallion greens have been added, as this will cause the greens to wilt and lose their crunch.
You can freeze dumplings after step 9 to cook for later. Make sure they are not touching as they freeze, to prevent sticking; you can lay them out on a baking sheet or other flat surface. Cook from frozen, and increase boiling time to six and a half minutes.
Serve the dumplings with your preferred dipping sauce. A classic Taiwanese version is a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and minced garlic. Black vinegar, sesame oil, or chili oil also make great additions.
For the wrappers:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
For the filling:
12 ounces ground or minced pork, 30% fat (see note)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons sesame oil
One bundle of scallions, sliced, greens separated from the whites
1/4 cup water
1. For the wrappers: Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
2. Incorporate water gradually as you mix, until dough is formed and the bowl is clean. The amount of water required depends on the humidity of air and flour; adjust as needed.
3. Transfer dough to countertop and knead until the surface is smooth, about three minutes.
4. Put dough in a bowl and cover with a moist paper towel to let rest for one hour at room temperature.
5. For the filling: Combine pork, ginger, soy sauce, salt, white pepper, five-spice powder, sesame oil, and scallion whites in a mixing bowl, incorporating water gradually as you mix.
6. After all the water is incorporated, add the egg and continue to mix, working until the mixture is tacky to the touch. You want to be able to form a meatball in your hand without the mixture falling apart.
7. Fold in the scallion greens just so that they are evenly distributed – do not overwork.
8. Divide the dough into individual portions and roll out to make individual wrappers. You want a thickness similar to a lasagna noodle. OR, use a pasta machine to make thin sheets of dough, then cut individual wrappers with a ring cutter, round cookie cutter, or glass.
9. To make the dumplings, add a dollop of meat to the center of a wrapper. (See image below.) If using a store-bought wrapper, wet the edge of the wrapper. Fold in half and seal by pinching.
10. To cook: Boil salted water. Once boiling, add dumplings but do not overcrowd the pot; you can cook in batches. When the water comes back up to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain and serve.