Chinese Dumplings

Beijing Hutong

Last December, I was able to join M on a business trip to China. One of the highlights of our stay in Beijing, aside from the Great Wall and Forbidden City, was taking a cooking class taught in a courtyard residence in a traditional hutong.

We booked the class with hutongcuisine.com before we left and opted for the class on dumplings. There were only three students in the class and, unlike others we have attended, it was a very hands-on experience.

Chunyi Zhou

Our instructor, Chunyi Zhou, greeted us and promptly outfitted each student with an apron, cleaver, cutting board and their own set of ingredients. The way the class works is that each student prepares part of the meal in the morning. It all comes together by early afternoon and then everyone sits down for lunch and enjoys the morning’s preparation.  I have included photos in this post, and there are additional pictures in Saveur’s Beijing issue.

I was tasked with making the pork and spring onion dumplings, while M took over the beef and celery version. We gathered around a large wooden table in Zhou’s kitchen and got to work.  As we prepped the ingredients, Zhou was there to guide (and correct) us along the way. Who knew that you could only stir the meat mixture in one direction? I’m still not sure why but I listened and obeyed.

After the fillings were ready, we got to work on making the actual dumpling wrappers. We rolled our dough into an approximately 10-inch long log and then cut it into 16 pieces. We then used a special Chinese rolling pin to roll each of the pieces into a thin disk about 3.5 inches in diameter. We put a tablespoon or so of filling into each wrapper, folded the disk onto itself and then pinched to seal.

Dumpling preparation

The pinch and seal was probably the most difficult task, aside from using a cleaver to cut everything. Zhou was right there for encouragement and correction. She decided to get all fancy with the pinch and seal on her dumplings as you can see below.

Zhou's dumpling on the left, mine on the right

After class, we went straight to the Chinese supermarket to purchase one of the special rolling pins because we knew we would certainly be making these upon our return–and we have–once. And, although I could eat these dumplings every day, due to their labor intensity, they are probably best reserved for special occasions.

Note:

1. You must use a high-gluten flour to get the elasticity required for the dumpling wrappers.

2. Many of the items listed in the recipe are not available at regular grocery stores.  We picked up many of our ingredients, including the high-gluten flour, at the Chinese American Trading Company on 91 Mulberry St. in New York.

3. Making dumplings seems intimidating but it is really quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it.

4. They are really delicious!

Chinese Dumplings

Dough

120 g high-gluten flour
60 g water

1. Put flour in a bowl. Gradually add water while stirring. Mix well until it all comes together.
2. Cover for 10 minutes. Knead lightly and roll into one long piece. Cut into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a thin round disk, about 3.5” in diameter.

Pork Filling

100 g minced pork
100 g Chinese cabbage
1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
2 tsp finely diced spring onion
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Chop cabbage into fine dice. Add ½ tsp salt. Mix and lest rest for 10 minutes. Squeeze and reserve water. Set aside.
2. Put minced pork into bowl and add all seasonings. Mix in one direction. Add reserved cabbage water in three portions, mixing well after each addition until meat is firm.
3. Add cabbage. Continue to mix in same direction until combined.

Beef filling

100 g minced beef
100 g celery
1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
1 tsp finely diced garlic
5 sichuan peppercorns, soaked in 50 ml of hot water for 2 hours
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil

1. Chop celery into fine dice and set aside.
2. Put minced beef into bowl and add all seasonings. Mix in one direction. Add Sichuan pepper water in three portions, mixing well after each addition until meat is firm.
3. Add celery. Continue to mix in same direction until combined.

Cooking

Steam dumplings for 10 minutes or 12 minutes if using two layers. We used a bamboo steamer.

Dipping sauce

6 cloves garlic, finely smashed
3 tbsp dark vinegar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
Chili oil to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve with steamed dumplings.

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3 Comments

Filed under Entrees, Meat

3 responses to “Chinese Dumplings

  1. Hey Larry, you went to a cooking class in China-that’s so cool!
    May I ask what is considered a dark vinegar for that dipping sauce. I’ve been making dumplings lately, so I would like to make it…

    • The dark vinegar is called Chinkiang vinegar. Most of the writing on the bottle is Chinese but it appears that the brand is Gold Plum and that the US distributor is HCDD Intl, Inc. (phone 718-418-9888). We purchased our bottle at Kalustyan’s in New York – they do have online ordering so you may be able to find it there. Good luck!

  2. I love the pleats on the dumplings but must confess, mine are generally half moons like yours. My goal is to get them to my stomach as soon as possible and pleating takes too long 🙂

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