Like any good comfort food, the exact recipe for jiaozi depends on who you ask.
“Different families have different taste buds,” says Sam Song, a member of the Jilin Sister City Society.
But members of the group are putting aside any differences about making the traditional Chinese dumplings to teach a class Tuesday on the traditional food as part of the Spokane Sister City events next week.
Group members gathered Saturday to roll, fill and pinch dumplings to prepare for the class. Participants will learn to make jiaozi, eat their creations and take home a recipe booklet and a plastic mold used to help crimp the dumplings, often called pot stickers in the United States.
The moon-shaped dumplings are an essential part of the Chinese New Year celebration, often called the Lunar New Year.
The class will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the North Bank Shelter at Riverfront Park, near Howard Street and Mallon Avenue. The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Contact Margo Buckles at (509) 280-3116 to sign up, or just come to the park.
Song says in China, the family recipe for dumplings is passed from generation to generation. Families work together to make the time-consuming meal.
Measuring cups and spoons are rare in his home country. “We don’t use them. We use our eyes and our experience,” he says.
Song learned to roll the dough as a child and uses what looks like a small rolling pin to flatten dough into circles while he talks. When he’s finished, the dough is slightly thicker in the middle and just a bit thinner on the edges where the dumplings will be pinched closed.
Others at the long table spoon filling into the dumpling skins and crimp the edges. Some club members use premade dough and plastic dumpling makers, and they earn some playful teasing from others for “cheating.”
A good dumpling will have a round belly and a small crimped edge. It should not come open when it is boiled.
“When a dumpling bursts, all of the flavor is lost,” says Song, who is the food and beverage supervisor for Riverfront Park.
Mischievous children in China are sometimes warned by their parents that they will get the dumplings with the extra dough or those that break during cooking if they misbehave, Song says.
Another tradition is to hide coins inside the dumplings. The person who finds the treasure will have good luck for the coming year.
The dumplings can be stuffed with fillings made from almost anything; the ingredients vary by region, family and sometimes by what is in the refrigerator, say members of the Jilin City sister city group. Ground pork, ground chicken, shredded napa cabbage, carrots, green onions, soy sauce ginger and sometimes seafood are traditional fillings.
When the dumplings have been filled and crimped, they are traditionally boiled. Dumplings are gently dropped into the water and stirred gently to prevent sticking. After the pot returns to boiling, about a 1/2 to 1 cup cold water is added. Song says the water must boil three times to ensure the filling is cooked through.
The dumplings can also be pan fried, which is the way many Americans prefer to eat them.
Spokane’s sister city relationship with Jilin City is the third oldest after Nishinomiya, Japan and Limerick, Ireland. The group was recently restarted and money raised by the class will help with education efforts.
There are about 20 members. President Danielle Xu is from Jilin City.
Xu and Song collaborated on the recipe below as a starting point.
These traditional dumplings are an essential to the Chinese New Year celebration. The recipe varies depending on family traditions and there are regional variations to the ingredients. This recipe was provided by members of the Jilin City Sister City Society.
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
Up to 1 1/4 cups cold water
For the filling:
1 cup ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (rice wine or dry sherry)
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons soybean oil
1 green onion, finely minced
1 1/2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
2 slices fresh ginger
Slowly stir cold water into flour adding as much as is necessary to form a smooth dough. Don’t add more water than is necessary. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, prepare the filling ingredients. Add the soy sauce, salt, rice wine and white pepper to the meat, stirring in only one direction. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring in the same direction, and mix well.
Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Divide into 60 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 3 inches in diameter.
Place a small portion (about 1 level tablespoon) of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with remainder of the dumplings.
To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil and add one-half cup of cold water. Cover and repeat.
When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time they are ready. Drain and remove. If desired, they can be pan fried at this point.
Serve dumplings with a traditional dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Or, with the dipping sauce in the recipe below
Yield: 60 dumplings
Jiaozi Dipping Sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon crushed garlic
¼ teaspoon minced ginger
4 drops hot chili oil
Mix ingredients. Serve with dumplings.