Sunday, 14 February 2010

Chinese chicken dumplings

I spent a large part of my childhood in Beijing, China. Stir-fries, rice dishes and filled dumplings - jiaozi (or gau gee in Cantonese and gyoza in Japanese) - have since become second food nature to me. I live in Europe now, but it's Chinese New Year, the year of large striped kitty cat, and I suddenly have a craving for traditional Chinese food. Enter the crazy idea of making jiaozi from scratch. Ok, so not entirely from scratch as I'm planning to buy ready-made wrappers, but it's a long way from buying frozen dumplings from the Asian supermarket for a quick dinner. The last time I actually saw someone MANUALLY making jiaozi was back in the 80s, but hey, it's the eve of the year of the Tiger and we're ready to cook...

Ingredients (makes about 48 dumplings - easily halved)

For the jiaozi:
  • 48 frozen jiaozi or gyoza wrappers, thawed in the fridge overnight (you get them at selected Asian supermarkets)
  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts (about 400g), roughly chopped
  • 200g Chinese cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (available at Asian supermarkets, but you could also use Sake or sherry)
  • Vegetable oil
For the dipping sauce:
  • 8 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  1. Place the chicken, cabbage, spring onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine in a food processor and pulse until well combined
  2. Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture in the middle of a wrapper
  3. Carefully dampen the edges with water, but be careful as too much will turn the dough into a soggy mess. Too little and the wrapper won't stick shut. 
  4. Fold the wrapper over the filling and press down the edges around the filling to seal
  5. Sit up the dumpling so that the flat bottom half is facing you. Then start to fold and pinch little creases into the edge
  6. Repeat the process for the other dumplings until you're either out of wrappers, out of filling or out of time. The first time calculate about 1-2 minutes per dumpling for this step. This is definitely a recipe where you get better - and make better-looking jiaozi - with each time
  7. Before you either steam or pan-fry the jiaozi you should make the dipping sauce by simply combining all listed ingredients
For steaming the jiaozi, Dim-Sum-style (healthier):
  1. Pour water (about a finger deep) into a frying pan and bring to a boil
  2. Rub the bottoms of the jiaozi with a bit of oil and place into a bamboo steamer on a piece of greaseproof paper. Make sure they don't touch each otherwise they will stick together
  3. Put the lid on the steamer, place in the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low
  4. Steam for about 10 to 12 minutes until the wrapper becomes a bit translucent (you may need to add a bit of water to the pan halfway through)
  5. Remove the jiaozi from the greaseproof paper as soon as possible (otherwise they'll get stuck)
For pan-frying the jiaozi (quicker, IMO tastier):
  1. Heat 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan (you'll need one with a tight fitting lid) of medium-high heat 
  2. Place the dumplings in the pan and fry - about 2 minutes - until they turn golden brown at the bottom
  3. Pour in a half a cup of water and close the lid immediately
  4. Leave until all the water has evaporated

Serve the jiaozi while they're hot with the dipping sauce and - a perfect fit for this New Year - a bottle of Tiger beer.

Xin Nian Hao!

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