Saturday, June 13, 2009

Zhōngguó jiǎozi hé guōtiē

I wasn’t joking when I said “Toodles” to you in my last blog post! I really have not had internet on this trip. I’m currently cruising the Mediterranean Sea. Not too shabby eh? But I did have to purchase myself some internet to get this blog post up – I’m truly a dedicated Daring Cook!! I'm posting now since it's midnight Italy/France/Spain time (I'm somewhere between the 3 countries right now!

What in the world is my post title, you ask? Simply, our 2nd Daring Cooks challenge! Need more help than that? It was hosted by a woman I'm happy to call a friend of mine, the fantabulous Jen Yu of Use Real Butter. Still stumped? 中国饺子和锅贴! Did that help? OK, fine...

Chinese Dumplings and Potstickers!

I was tickled when Jen spilled the beans to us, over breakfast last month, that she was June's Daring Cooks' hostess-with-the-mostess! It was literally hours later that she posted the challenge (from her hotel room nonetheless!) Chinese dumplings! A positively fantastic challenge for Jen to host. Especially since the main reason I first started reading Jen's blog was for her Fan-Diddly-Tastic Chinese recipes; written out clearly with measurements and instructions. As most children/grandchildren of Chinese immigrants know - when you ask said relatives how to make a particular dish you get what I get from my mother "Oh I don't know, just add it until it tastes right." Which is usually followed by "maybe you should watch me make it and estimate." Neither is very helpful when I'm on the other end of a phone call inquiring about a tricky Chinese recipe.

First things first here, the difference between a dumpling and a potsticker is... nothing other than how you cook it. Dumplings are usually boiled or steamed while potstickers are pan-fried. Other than that they are the same thing.

Frying as opposed to boiling or steaming = potstickers as opposed to dumplings :)

We were given Jen's entire recipe for dumpling skins, fillings (1 pork and 1 shrimp) and a dipping sauce. As I reviewed her recipe however, I realized that it was quite close to my family's dumpling/potsticker recipe; right down to the dipping sauce! So I pretty much made my family's recipe since it's what I'm familiar with. I did do a version of Jen's dumpling skin to check it out first, but lemme tell you - our family recipes for all the elements of this challenge were near identical, so I probably won't even get a slap on the wrist for using my own.

My potsticker folding station – not a bad thing to do on a Saturday afternoon!

My family uses more water than Jen in the dumpling skins. 6 T of water per 1 cup of flour, while Jen uses 4 T of water per 1 cup of flour. I don't know whether this was something with my weather, or the day, or my skill after practicing, but I liked the dough better with more water. After cooking, the skin felt softer and thinner even when I rolled them out the same thickness.

It starts out quite dry (note pic on left) but with enough kneading it becomes beautiful

The family filling differs a bit as well but really you can throw anything into a dumpling and it’s legit if you enjoy it.

My filling layout - I had no idea I had so many small dishes! Ha!

Ready to stir it all together

My auntie taught me to fold dumplings differently also. I’ve put together a step-by-step to show people how we fold dumplings in my family. I also tried Jen’s way and while her way seems easier to do, I think our way allows you to stuff more filling in the dumplings. Pick your priorities! We fold ours with either 4 folds or 6 folds depending on how intricate you want to be. The other thing that’s nice is you could fold (for example) shrimp with 4 pleats and pork with 6 and then you can tell the difference without having to keep them separated.

I’ll post higher resolution pictures when I get home so that you can see better details when you click on them – I’m currently traveling and the bandwidth is very low so I can’t upload large images.
For 4 pleats:For 6 pleats:As is always the case, the folding started out a little rough (read: ugly) but gets much easier and faster (read: better looking) as you go. I should have made multiple batches while I was at it, but I didn’t have room in my freezer. Even still, I made up a second batch of skins a few days later and filled them with our family har gow recipe. Voila: shrimp dumplings
Finally finished!!! Whew!!

Cooking the dumplings is so easy and fast. Just fry the bottoms up a bit and then dump in the water while it splatters and splashes and steam them until the water’s gone. After all that complicated slicing, dicing (the filling) and folding (the dumplings) it’s nice that cooking is so simple and easy. And of course that’s for potstickers; dumplings are just as easy – either boiling for soup or steaming gently to eat with a dipping sauce.

Look at that water sizzle and splatter! WOW - back up!

My favorite dipping sauce is really simple. Light soy sauce, Chinese pink vinegar and some sugar. I’m just as bad as my mother here in that I can’t give you measurements… “just pour them together until it tastes good.”

There will be lots more of these sooner than later; lots!

It’s always scary to set up for and make these “complicated” things I’ve learned from my family; and do so all alone at home. It’s so much more fun and less-intimidating to do them with a small army of Chinese females gathered around me instructing [demanding] that I fold my dim sum the correct way. But these relatives are aging much faster than I’m willing to accept. In fact, my mom’s oldest sister, my Auntie Frances who has been like a pseudo Por-Por to me (my own passed away many, many years before I was born) taught me to make almost all the Chinese food I make. Her health and age have now carried her to a point in which she’s no longer cooking very much anymore. It is to her that I dedicate this post, and to Jen I send my thanks - for pushing me and reminding me that I can make these things. And in doing so, I can carry on the family traditions for many, many, many more years.
With my mommy and aunties - the most important women in my life


  1. For those wondering, the common name for De Quervain's tenosynovitis is Pretendonitis.

  2. What a great photos - very helpfull for those doing chinese dumplings for the first time - like me ;) I'm sure your tasted delicious - as they look yummy! :) Cheers!

  3. Oh, Lisa, as usual, you out did yourself, but is it possible for you to ever out do yourself, since everything you make is beautiful and mouth watering? I love the directions you gave, as they helped me along with jen's directions. You totally rock, dumpling girl!

  4. What a wonderful post! Everything look beautiful and I suspect it all tasted as good as it looked. I loved your family photo. Have a wonderful day.

  5. Beautiful photos and very detailed illustrations of all the steps. Great job!

  6. I love your pictures! Great job on your dumplings, they look delicious!

  7. Awesome, sweetie. Love that last pic in particular. Just sad we didn't get to see Lucca :) Hope you are having fun on vacay. xxoo

  8. What a detailed and helpful post, especially for us dumpling newbies. Absolutely lovely!

  9. Great job!!!!!!!!!! Look at all your photos :) WOW! Enjoy your vacation!

  10. Lisa, this is fantastic! I wish I'd spotted your take on the pleating directions before I did mine. They're all so perfectly pleated!

    Love the family photograph.

  11. girl, you made me misty-eyed with your last paragraph! beyond the beautiful pictures, i love the heart that you clearly put into making the dumplings/potstickers, and i adore that you dedicated it to your family. our culture bonds so much through food that your continuation of your family's recipes is truly a carrying on of your family name.

  12. Thanks for the suggestion on using the pestle! It worked perfectly.

  13. Thanks for the step by step instruction on pleating the dumplings. I had to figure mine out the hard way.. a few of the dumplings had to be sacrificed. Great photos, and definitely fabulous looking dumplings.

  14. Wow! Your potstickers look amazing, and the photos are beautiful!! Awesome job on this challenge =D.

  15. I've seen this challenge all over the Internet. Your end product looks marvelous. I also love the way you've captured how communal food, and the making of it, can (and probably should) be!

    I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  16. Thank you for showing how to prepare dumplings from scratch, I am definitely going to give this a try! I came across your blog through Dessert First and am so delighted, I will be back!