So, not sure if I have ever disclosed this fact, but I am a dumpling freak. Actually, I am pretty sure I did at one point in my review of local Taiwanese-Korean fusion noodle and dumpling purveyors Toki Underground several years back. Oh, and don’t forget to check out review number two of the joint while you are at it to hear more about the highlights of my participation on the taping of the Cooking Channel’s hit show Unique Eats while a special was filmed there.
So, I recently stumbled upon a recipe for the real deal in Chinese dumplings. I did not know about Zhong’s dumplings, which made them all the more intriguing to me. Apparently they are a sought after delicacy for the Chinese New Year, and thought the recipe has been duplicated many times over by restauranteurs and chefs around the world, the real deal originates from a modest dumpling shop located in Chengdu, Sichuan. Situated in the heart of Renmin Park is the famous Zhong’s Dumpling Restaurant, named after it’s original creator. The recipe, commonly referred to as Zhong Jiaozi, is literally translated to mean ‘Zhong’s poached dumpling.’ Very crafty name indeed. I am both a history and dumpling buff, so this sort of food history is fascinating to me.
If you are also a history nut like me, here is a little background on the origin of the famed name of the dumplings, but you can always read up more here if you please. I pulled this info from Wikipedia for those who are foodie history nerds like myself.
“Jiaozi are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and year round in the northern provinces. They look like the golden ingots yuan baoused during the Ming Dynasty for money and the name sounds like the word for the earliest paper money, so serving them is believed to bring prosperity.Many families eat these at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Some cooks will even hide a clean coin for the lucky to find.
Jiaozi were so named because they were horn shaped. The Chinese for “horn” is ji?o (?), and jiaozi was originally written with the Chinese character for “horn”, but later it was replaced by a specific character ?, which has the food radical on the left and the phonetic component ji?o (?) on the right.
According to folk tales, jiaozi were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, one of the greatest practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in history. They were originally called “tender ears” (??; pinyin: jiao’er) because they were used to treat frostbitten ears.
Jiaozi are eaten all year round, and can be eaten at any time of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can constitute one course, starter or side dish, or the main meal. In China, jiaozi are sometimes served as a last course during restaurant meals. As a breakfast dish, jiaozi are prepared alongside xiaolongbao at inexpensive, roadside restaurants. Typically, they are served in small steamers containing ten pieces each. Although mainly consumed at breakfast, these small restaurants keep them hot on steamers, and ready to eat all day.”
Pretty neat, hey? Well, Here is a fantastic little tutorial on how to make your very own Zhong Jiaozi at home. This is a great way to try a new food you may have never tasted, and if you have children, it is such a fun way to teach them a little about history while incorporating some good eats and a satisfying cooking exercise. I will be posting more recipes with storied origins, so stay tuned for the next treat from the next far-away land, steeped in history. Also, check out this fantastic video from Iron Chef and restauranteur Anita Lo, on the proper way to fold and crease your dumplings…nothing like learning from the pros.
Zhong’s Traditional Chinese Boiled Crescent Dumplings
|Meal type||Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, Starter|
|Misc||Pre-preparable, Serve Hot|
|Occasion||Casual Party, Formal Party|
|By author||Mala Tang Restaurant - Arlington, VA|
- 28oz circular flour-and water dumpling wrappers (this yields about 60-80 wrappers)
- 4 " piece of ginger (unpeeled)
- 1 Large egg
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
- 3/4 tablespoons salt
- 6-8 Turns black pepper from mill
- 1 Pound ground pork
- 3 tablespoons sweet, aromatic soy sauce or light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed to mix with water)
- 1-2 teaspoon cold water (for mixing with crushed garlic and dipping ingredients)
|Smash the ginger with the flat side of a cleaver blade or a heavy object and leave to soak for a few minutes in about 1 cup of cold water.|
|Mix the egg, wine, and salt and pepper into the pork, and then gradually add the ginger-water,so it is absorbed by the meat to form a fragrant, floppy paste. Mix the dipping ingredients in a little bowl-always add the garlic at the last minute to make the most of its strong, fresh fragrance.|
|Place a dumpling skin flat on your hand and add a generous teaspoon of filling. Fold one side of the skin over the meat, make one or two tucks in it, and then press it tightly to meet the other side and make a little, half moon-shaped dumpling. You can seal the dumpling with a series of little pinches if you wish. Make sure you pinch the skins together tightly so the filling can’t ooze out. Lay the dumplings. Separately, on a lightly floured tray, plate or work surface.|
|Heat a generous pot of water to a vigorous boil over a high flame. Stir the water briskly, and place in a couple of handfuls of dumpling. Stir once to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the water has returned to a boil. Throw in a coffee-cupful of wold water. Allow the water to return to a boil again, and add another dup of cold water. When the water has returned to a boil for the third time, the dumpling skins will be glossy and puckered and the meat should have cooked through-cut one dumpling in half to make sure. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon, drain well, and serve steaming hot with the spicy, aromatic dip.(the cold water is added to prevent the water from boiling too vigorously and tearing the dumplings apart.) Continue cooking the dumplings in batches until your guests are incapable of eating any more.|
|In a small bowl, whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients and serve alongside hot dumplings.|