Commonly called potstickers in America and gyoza in Japan, these dumplings are often described as "Chinese ravioli," for some bizarre reason. Jiaozi are made with circular pieces of thin dough, filling put in the middle and then the dough pinched over, usually making a sort of crescent shape. Jiaozi fillings are normally meat and vegetables, but there are some sweet varieties with peanuts, coconut, etc. These are relatively unusual.

Jiaozi may be cooked by steaming or frying; a preference for one or the other is usually regional. Jiaozi are fairly common in overseas Chinese restaurants and frozen in the grocery store. They're fun to make at home, though; a band of friends or family can make several hundred in a session. Those not eaten can be saved as leftovers and divided up to put in home freezers. (Jiaozi are good as cold leftovers, too, though that may be culinary heresy.) A dipping sauce is sometimes served. The recipe varies but a basic example is soy sauce, hot chili oil, and scallions. Jiaozi are highly recommended! Mmm.

In contrast to baozi, the jiaozi dough is very thin. In fact, the word is jiaozi pi, where pi means "skin." (This is the source of the title of the story "Skin of the Heart," from Nishi Keiko's "Love Story.") These wrappers may be purchased ready-made at most supermarkets in the USA.

Basic recipes for jiaozi may be found at SOAR under "Chinese," or at http://dinnercoop.cs.cmu.edu/dinnercoop/Recipes/cookbook/part1.html

The other writeups here are excellent, and capture the traditional jiaozi very well. But beyond pork fillings, beyond the Spring Festival fun of making end-of-winter jiaozi with the whole family, a revolution occurred in the early part of this century in the way jiaozi are made in China, particularly in Beijing. Notice how all the other writeups refer to only one kind of filling? That's a hint.

I am actually going to be bold and predict that what we are seeing with jiaozi may be the thin edge of the wedge as far as Chinese food "going a little bit fusion" is concerned. This is not a bad thing! Far from it. I cannot think of a national cuisine (Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican, etc.) that has not benefited from the everyone wins wonders of a little fusion. The traditional cuisine gets more recognition, and the traditional flavours and textures get used by smart chefs to make wonderful new things to eat.

So what's happened to the jiaozi? Essentially, it's been taken back to basics and reinvented. What did we always love about jiaozi? The skin, the steam magic, and the dipping sauce. What were we always a bit ambivalent towards? The filling. Usually a little stodgy and flavourless, as hinted in some of the other writeups here, the filling, when it was good, was just ok. Pork-plus was pretty much it.

And that's what's changed. Starting with "That jiaozi restaurant out near the Third Hospital (in Beijing), you know, that one started by the famous singer" the fillings have undergone quite a change recently. In case you think I am being silly with the name, that's what you'll actually have to say in a Beijing taxi to get to the place. The singer was famous in a very, well, one hit wonder kind of way. But the fillings are fabulous. Never missing a beat, other jiaozi restaurants in Haidian have almost all taken up the new style, and it's now spread widely in Northern China.

So what's in these new fillings? Everything. You can order as if you're at a regular Chinese restaurant, whatever dish you can think up, and they put it in a wonderful little steamed dumpling for you! Xihongshi chao jidan? (Tomato'n'eggs.) Done. Gan bian bian dou? (Spicy dry fried green beans.) Done. Fish? Sure, done. Chicken with your favourite vegetable? No problem, how many do you want?

And that brings me to the final change that's come about. One of the historical problems with ordering jiaozi is that you had to order so many of the same kind before the cook would make them for you, because the filling was "jiaozi only" so minimum numbers were high, sometimes half a pound of one flavour! Now, because everything on the menu is essentially open to popping into a jiaozi, and mostly it tastes better that way, the minimum order number has come way, way down. Most places these days you can get away with ordering just ten jiaozi of one flavour, and that is great news for small parties or eating on your own.

In summary, if you haven't had jiaozi, in Beijing, since 2001, you haven't had jiaozi!

A Complete Guide to Preparing Jiaozi, for Clumsy Westerners



Here is a simple recipe and process that I have come up with, simply by observing my former Chinese housemate and current Chinese girlfriend. If I can do it, you certainly can!

I unfortunately don't have a recipe for making the wrappers, but the round ones you can buy at any good grocery store, or any self-respecting Asian market, should handily suffice.

饺子


PREPARATION
Filling

Basically, use all of these ingredients to taste, with pork usually making up the majority of the filling. For reference, the last time I made these, I used a little over half a package of pork, no cabbage. With everything else, it filled 50 wraps just about perfect.

Ingredients
Directions
  • Chop everything (mushrooms, cabbage, green onion, cilantro) very, very tiny. We're talking pencil eraser-sized bits or smaller, here. Cabbage needs to have excess water continually squeezed out of it, as you chop it.
  • Put all the ingredents, sans the oil and wild pepper, in large bowl, start to mix it up, stirring in one direction only.
  • Put the oil in a wok/pan, along with several pinches of wild pepper. Heat the oil, allowing the pepper husks to flavour the oil. Scoop out the husks, throw 'em away.
  • Pour the oil into the mix. Continue to mix, mix, mix, until the texture is consistent.

Wrapping
After you have completed this, you enter the tedious, but gratifying portion of the process: filling the wrappers. If you are lacking in hand-eye coordination, time, or attention span, you can always purchase a little plastic dumpling maker. However, the results don't look as pretty...

This is an attempt to textually describe how to fill and fold the wrappers. You might want to watch someone with the know-how, in order to "get it" fully.

Oh yeah. Be sure you have quite a bit of level freezer space.
  • Set a small bowl or dish of water aside.
  • put a wrapper in one hand. with the other, use chopsticks or a spoon to place a blob of dumpling mix in the centre of the wrap. Said blob should be about the size of a US quarter in diameter, maybe a little bigger. Until you get the hang of this, though, start small.
  • dip your finger(s) into the water dish, and dampen the outside edges of the wrap that surround the mixture.
  • Gently fold one side of the wrap overtop, forming a half moon-shape... it will, perhaps, resemble a taco to you, as well. Gently squeeze the top of the "arch" together. This leaves you with two open "loops" on either side.
  • Poke the edge in, of one of the loops, thus making two smaller ones in the process. Squeeze the bottom loop tight. Repeat the "tuck and fold" step on the top loop; Seal all folds against the body of the dumpling, in the direction of the bottom loop.
  • Repeat this process on the other side. When you have completed this, squeeze all the sealed edges, to assure that there are no holes anywhere along the seal.
  • Place dumpling on a large tray (pizza pan, etc.) that is covered in plastic wrap or lightly floured.
  • Repeat the above process until you have run out of dumpling mix and/or wrappers. Each time you complete a dumpling, assure that any two dumplings do not touch, as they may stick together, which in turn means they will likely break when cooking.


Freezing
Freezing the dumplings, while not a necessary step, goes far to assure that the edges get, and stay sealed. The easiest way to do this is to line a shelf in your freezer with plastic wrap, and place each dumpling, one by one, onto the sheet, again assuring that they do not touch. The freezing process should not take long -- an hour, at most. When they are frozen, or mostly frozen, dump them all into a Ziploc bag.

饺子


COOKING
This is the best part!
This is the purportedly "traditional" way to cook them. While you can just dump them in boiling water, letting them cook until they float, here's how I learned to do it, with the frozen dumplings.
  • Fill the pot with a reasonable amount of water, leaving a fair amount of empty space in the top (you will see why, below). Wait for the water to boil.
  • When the water begins to boil, dump a decent number of dumplings in. The water will, of course, stop boiling temporarily.
  • When the water begins to boil, add 1/2 to 1 cup of cool water. When the water begins to boil again, repeat.
  • When your dumplings begin to float, you can remove them with a slotted spoon, and either put them in a bowl, in a soup, or you can fry them up.


饺子

Last but not least

What good are dumplings if you don't have dipping sauce?


DIPPING SAUCE
Ingredients

Directions
  • Chop up the garlic, green onion, nice and tiny-like.
  • Mix everything to taste. A good reference is a 2:1 ratio of vinegar:soy sauce. Add a few drops of sesame oil, a pinch of sugar, and however much chili, green onion, and garlic that you like. I highly recommend any of the Lao Gan Ma brand chili sauces... they're far better than anything else, if you can find them. Hands down. No kidding.


After all your hard work, you are ready to enjoy your homemade jiaozi... although you can continue calling them "potstickers" if you want. Now, aren't they so much better than those silly things that come from your grocer's freezer, in the Panda bag?
Terminological confusion:

>Wintersweet jiaozi

wrote "Commonly called potstickers in America and gyoza in Japan, these dumplings are often described as "Chinese ravioli," for some bizarre reason."

Nothing bizarre is involved. The Chinese word is jiaozi, 餃子 in traditional Chinese characters. These are quite similar to Italian ravioli. In fact, "jiaozi" may have been brought to Italy by Marco Polo (but note that some scholars maintain that Mr. Polo never really went to China). Most Americans are quite familiar with the term "ravioli," so calling calling jiaozi "Chinese ravioli" makes it quite easy for people who don't know Chinese to guess what you are talking about. Of course, ravioli should really be called Italian jiaozi, but I don't think such a name change would go over very well.

"Gyoza" is merely the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters. Pot stickers are FRIED jiaozi. The correct Chinese word for this is guotie, which translates as pot sticker: 鍋貼.

see also Using Chinese on E2

Back in 1996 I tried to standardize my family's jiaozi recipe for a friend. I wrote it on a scrap of paper while I was visiting my sister (and using her kitchen) and then promptly misplaced it when I got home. I found the notes last year, and they've been languishing on my desk until I could transcribe them. So, before you I present the family jiaozi recipe pared down for folks who don't want to feed a ravening army of 16 or so participants in a jiaozi making party. When I was younger, we'd spend the entire evening with dough made from a whole 5 pound bag of flour, and several big bowls of fillings, cooking and eating at the same time. It's a thing to do with the whole family and good friends, and the freezer ends up chock full by the end of the evening even while everyone is stuffed to the gills. It's only fair to send folks home with some to stock their freezers as well. Cooked leftovers are tasty as finger food later, but nothing beats hot out of the pot or pan.

The recipe makes about 40, although that will change depending on how big you make them. I find we tend to eat more of them if we cook and eat at the same time, so I'd say this is enough for 3-4 people. If you want enough to freeze for later, just double the recipe.

This writeup is not so much to compete, but to complement cswiii's very thorough description of the jiaozi making process. Every family has a different recipe, and every family has a different method to their madness.

Contents:
Wrapper
Fillings
- pork (or turkey)
- meatless
Wrapping method, in short
Cooking
- boiled
- fried (guotie or potstickers)
- steamed

Wrapper-
We make wrappers from scratch. Rolling them takes a bit of practice, but homemade are so much better than those flimsy store bought things which are essentially slightly heavier wonton wrappers. These do not have that slippery smooth noodle texture of wonton skins, and they soak up the flavor of the filling beautifully. These wrappers are made with boiling water which means the finished dumplings can be boiled, steamed, or fried.

Why boiling water? Well, it changes the texture of the dough which is necessary for an appealing fried or steamed dumpling. It's more tender and can be rolled thinner. You can boil jiaozi made from dough made with only cold water, but they shouldn't be used for guotie. And really, the technique isn't difficult so might as well make the hot dough and have the flexibility to do both.

The wrappers should be made after the filling has been assembled so the dough doesn't dry out. We usually have someone rolling wrappers while everyone else is filling them so they don't stack up and start sticking together. If making them alone, cover up the unrolled dough so it doesn't dry out and make them in batches so the rolled wrappers don't start sticking together.

2 1/2c. all-purpose flour
2/3c. boiling water
1/3c. cold water

Make a well in the flour and grab a heavy duty wooden paddle or something. Pour the boiling water into the well and immediately stir the flour together to make a dough. Add about half the cold water and then more as needed to bring the dough together into a soft ball, then knead it a bit until it's smooth and cohesive. It should be smooth and soft, and not sticky when dusted with flour. Using plenty of flour for hands and surfaces, form into a large doughnut shape and then squeeze the doughnut into an increasingly large ring. When the ring itself is about 1.5-2" thick, cut it in half, and then cut small 1" long pieces off of it as needed. The size of the pieces will determine the size of the finished dumplings. Cover up the unused dough with something to keep it from drying out if there's a lot.

Using plenty of flour and a rolling pin (not one with handles like an American pin, but essentially a long, smooth stick), roll each piece into a round about 4" in diameter and mostly about 1/16" thick. This is done by first smoothing out the blob and then flattening it with the palm of the hand. Then, holding it with the fingers of one hand, roll the pin not quite halfway up the blob mostly letting its own weight do the work and then roll back down. Rotate the dough a little, and do it again. Keep rotating and rolling until it's the desired size. This causes the wrapper to be slightly thicker in the middle, and using several passes to make it full sized leads to a more even shape. Yes, yes, you can do anything you like to make the circular, I just like this way. It takes a bit of practice making wrappers this way, but someone with practice can easily outstrip four people wrapping dumplings on the sidelines. Avoid making bigger jiaozi just 'cause it's faster. A few big ones aren't troublesome, but I find they taste better when they're moderately sized.

When stacking the wrappers, make sure they are well floured and offset in case they stick.

To see rolling and wrapping jiaozi in action, go here and see a very cool little video courtesy of dharbigt.

Fillings-
Different fillings abound, and you can basically put anything you like in them. I've had lovely ones with lots of garlic chives instead of nappa cabbage, for instance. These ingredients are basically combined in a bowl and then spooned into the wrappers. Either of the following recipes is sufficient for one batch of wrappers.

Pork:
1 lb. ground pork (note, ground turkey is an excellent substitution for pork if pork's not your thing)
1.25c. nappa cabbage, blanched, squeezed reasonably dry, and chopped fine
1tsp. minced scallions
1tsp. minced ginger
2tbsp. soy sauce
2tsp. sesame oil
2-3 shiitake mushrooms (either dried ones softened in a bit of hot water and then drained and stemmed before chopping, or fresh in which case you can include the stems), chopped fine (optional)
Meatless:
2 bundles bean thread (also known as glass or cellophane noodles, made from mung bean starch), soaked for 5 minutes or so in very warm water to soften, then drained and cut up into ~1" long bits with a scissor
9 or so shiitake mushrooms (either dried ones softened in a bit of hot water and then drained and stemmed before chopping, or fresh in which case you can include the stems), chopped fine
1c. nappa cabbage, blanched, squeezed reasonably dry, and finely chopped
1tbsp. sesame oil
1tbsp. soy sauce
1tbsp. scallions, minced
1tsp. fresh ginger, minced
Optionally, swap out the bean thread with 3 bricks of seasoned dry tofu (豆腐乾 dou4fu3gan1), finely diced. Or swap out half.

I should note that these are exponentially more difficult to wrap than meated fillings because the filling is loose and will not hold together. It's OK for bits of the glass noodles to stick out of the seam, as long as they are firmly pinched closed. As long as the seal is good, they won't open while cooking.

Wrapping-
Dust a big tray liberally with flour. Put about a tablespoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper. Then, starting at one point, pinch the edge together (not opposite sides of the edge, but what will become the "corner" of the dumpling). Homemade dough is soft and should readily stick together if firmly pinched, no water needed. Now, pinch it again, this time causing one side to overlap the previous pinch, causing a soft pleat. Do this so only one side is pleating at all. Make sure to pinch firmly, and done right this will cause the dumplings to take on a pouched and curved shape which I find much more attractive than the "turnover" style ones which are basically pressed flat to seal. While the turnover style ones are found everywhere in machine made dumplings, the plump pouch shape is much more aesthetically pleasing.

Freeze until firm in a single layer and then put gently in a freezer bag or such and use them up within a month. Or cook immediately. Do not defrost them before cooking them.

Cooking-
To boil: Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil, drop the dumplings into the water one by one. Don't overload the pot or the water will cool down too much and they'll stick. Stir once or so to prevent sticking while it comes back to the boil. Add a half cup of cold water and bring back to a boil. They should be floating, so sticking isn't an issue unless they stuck to the bottom when they were first dropped in. Either cook them for one more cold water/boil cycle, or scoop them out, straining out the water. This will depend on how chewy you like your wrappers, but they'll be done after the first boil, once they're floating. Serve immediately or they'll start to stick together. We like to eat these plain or dip them in chili paste doctored with some lemon juice and chopped coriander.

To fry: Put about 2tbsp. of canola oil (or any good, high heat frying oil) into a very hot frying pan with a tight fitting lid. Turn the pan to coat the bottom. Put the dumplings in the pan in a single layer with a little space between each dumpling as they'll expand a bit as they cook. After about a minute, when the bottoms of the dumplings are turning golden, add about 2/3-1c. of water with a generous splash of rice vinegar in it (regular distilled white vinegar works too, though). Cover tightly and cook until the water has boiled off and you can hear it making crackling, sizzly noises. If desired, add another tablespoon of oil and fry for another half minute, but I usually turn 'em out right away. Use a spatula to loosen them up and then flip the whole thing out onto a plate, bottom up so the bottoms don't get soggy. Serve immediately. These are fabulous with some black vinegar steeped with finely slivered ginger. If the dumplings are frozen, use the larger quantity of water to make sure they're thoroughly cooked through.

To steam: er, I never do this as boiling them is much easier. Actually, I don't know of anyone who steams this kind of jiaozi, although there are versions made with very delicate rice flour wrappers which are steamed. They must be steamed as the wrapper doesn't hold up to boiling, and certainly not to frying. But if you want to steam these for whatever reason, line a steam basket with whole nappa cabbage leaves and place a single layer of jiaozi on top of the leaves with a small amount of space between each one as they will expand some as they cook. Then, just steam them until they're done. It's hard to overcook them via steam but 10-15min on high per batch should do it. Serve right away directly from the steamer. They'll stick together if they touch.

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