Jiao Zi (Boiled Pork Dumplings)

Kitty Yum Yum’s Dumpling Emporium

I admit that I’m a bit of a fussy pants about collecting the best version of a recipe possible, to the point of years of trial and error to get things just right.  I believe in a specific set of credos of the kitchen, and won’t accept any substitutions for particular dishes that my palette is craving a certain way.  Was it Anthony Bourdain that said that people that refuse to peel garlic (by way of pre-chopped jarred garlic) don’t deserve to eat it?  I watch Sandra Lee cook out of seasoning packets and processed piles of ingredients, and it reminds me of why I enjoy spending a little extra time in the kitchen getting things just right.  It’s so worth it when the stars align and the recipe you’re working from just works.

For as long as I’ve known, there have been two dishes that have alluded me in their construction of the perfect recipe – enchilada sauce (like Los Olivos makes in Arizona, or my friends’ Drew and Michelle’s mom makes) and the perfect dumpling.  Don’t get me wrong – I can make a mean  enchilada or dumpling when tasked to do so – just not the ultimate, quintessential version to satisfy my craving (from home).  Fast forward to this morning – a little internet research and a quick trip to the grocery store and my lucky stars, perfect dumplings!  While I’m still on my quest for the perfect enchilada sauce (more on that in a bit), I no longer need to hit up The Fortune for pan fried pork dumplings, Ollies for Pork and Chive potstickers, and China Fun for Crystal Shrimp Dumplings.  Serious business.

In celebration of Chinese New Year (heck yeah, tigre!), my sister-in-law, Danielle, and I got to work prepping, boiling and crisping up a serious pile of dumpling deliciousness.  We’re going to call our new business Kitty Yum-Yum’s Dumpling Emporium.  What? Is that name taken already?

jiaozi_fried2When you make these for yourself, keep these little tidbits in mind:

  • These recipes make a huge amount of dumplings – definitely invite masses of friends over to dunk and nibble.  Especially if you want a few extra hands pinching and pleating the dumplings.
  • All of the recipes below freeze exceedingly well – line the dumplings up on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and a sprinkle of flour, making sure that none are touching.  Freeze and then bag them.  You can cook them from frozen – no need to defrost when you want to eat later.
  • I use my CuisineArt to grind the filling from scratch and the KitchenAid to mix the dough and the filling.  VERY helpful, but this recipe is totally doable without either one.  Back when I was in college, we’d make these by hand for cheap.  It took longer, but was a lot less cash than taking a trip downtown for 6 dumplings for $6.  $1 a dumpling?  No way, josé.
  • These take some time to prepare, so definitely do this on a Sunday or when you’ve got a couple of hours to cook.
  • Rather than make just one recipe at a time, make all three and have a dim sum night.  Just another excuse to have friends over and stuff their faces.

Lastly, for you educated folk out there, Wikipedia has an excellent culinary history on jiao zi and an explanation of the difference between these guys and the thinner, more delicate wrappers used for wontons.  The pork recipe below has you boiling the dumplings (“shuijiao“) and the pork and chive version has you pan-frying them after boiling them (“guotie“), but do feel free to mix and match your cooking methods with your fillings.

Boiled Pork Jiao Zi

I’ve always wondered how the best meat dumplings manage to stay so succulent and juicy.  Is it from fatty pork?  Extra sesame oil?  I had no idea until I found this tip on the fabulous food blog Chow Times that the secret was adding water to the filling.  Craziness, but after tasting the result of this addition to my usual pork filling, I was converted.  Thanks, guys!

4 c. of flour
1 1/4 c. of ice water
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 lbs of ground pork
1 in. of fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. of white pepper
1 tsp. of black pepper
2 tbs. of soy sauce
2 tsp. of sesame oil
2 tsp. of sherry
4 tsp. of sugar
1 tbs. of oyster sauce
1 tsp. of powdered chicken boullion (use unsalted version for better control of salt content)
1/2 tsp. of corn starch
1 c. of water
salt to taste

Start by making the dough for the wrappers.  Add the four cups of flour to a bowl along with the salt.  Slowly stream in water, stirring as you go and making sure not to put any actual ice cubes in the mixture.  Add only enough water to get the dough to hold together – if it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.  Knead dough until silky and elastic (about 5-8 minutes) and then wrap with plastic and let chill in the fridge.

Place your ground pork in a bowl (or the bowl of your standing mixer).  Add the ginger, white pepper, black pepper, soy, sesame oil, sherry, sugar, boullion, and corn starch.  Stir all in one direction until blended and the pork begins to break down into long, sticky bits.  Slowly add the cup of water in small amounts and continue stirring after each addition (in 30 second intervals).  Your mixture should be wet but not soupy and incredibly smooth.  Spoon a scant 1/2 tsp. of filling out and quickly fry in a pan until cooked all the way through.  Taste your filling for salt and add more if necessary.  Set filling aside.

Break out your dough and pinch a chunk off the size of a clementine.  Run the dough through a pasta roller or roll out by hand to about 1/4 in. thick.  Cut out 3-4 in. circles using a cookie cutter or the mouth of a large cup (I use one of my hubby’s beer steins).  Place a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the wrapper and pleat the edges to close.  Set aside on a floured cookie sheet.  Continue to fill the dumplings until you run out of filling or dough – whichever comes first.

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.  When the water is ready, plunk in about 8-12 dumplings and watch the water go from a boil to a simmer.  Let the water come back to a boil and then pour in a rough cup and a half of cold water.  Let the water come to a boil again and then add cold water a second time.  Let the pot come to a boil one last time and then remove dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon.  Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the dumplings that you could possibly eat in one sitting.

Serve with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce.

11 thoughts on “Jiao Zi (Boiled Pork Dumplings)”

  1. The meatloaf is VASTLY easier to make – the dumplings take a bit of time, so I guess it all depends on how hungry you guys are 🙂

  2. Could you please translate your website into German since I'm not very comfortable reading it in English? I'm getting tired of using Google Translate all the time, there is a little WP plugin called like global translator which will translate all your pages automatically- that would make reading posts on your sweet blog even more enjoyable. Cheers mate, Gourmet Guide!

    1. I've been going back and forth on whether to add the translator widget or not, and it's been a tough decision. I absolutely DO want all language speakers to be able to access my content. That being said, I cannot stand the job that Google Translator does in converting into alternate languages. They have so many typos and grammatical errors, I can't openly support them on my site.

      Interesting that this all comes up, given that my mom is a language teacher and a big proponent of accurate translation (key word being accurate). Her blog, so aptly named, is Laura Loves Languages. I know that she and I alike would love a translator that actually did a good job, but it seems we've still got a wait in front of us.

      Cheers and thanks for being patient and reading my blog, even though it's only in one measly language 😉

    1. It's more of a time commitment than anything – once you get going, the pinching and pleating is actually quite easy. You should give them a try 🙂

    1. Ah, thank you so much! Making them from scratch has really made me appreciate them all the more. You can absolutely control the quality of the ingredients to make them the best possible.

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