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.

- pork (or turkey)
- meatless
Wrapping method, in short
- boiled
- fried (guotie or potstickers)
- steamed

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.

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.

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)
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.

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.

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.