Chinese dumplings are one of the most popular foods during the Chinese New Year for Chinese people, especially in Northern China. To many Chinese people, wrapping dumplings together on Chinese New Year’s Eve is also a very important family activity.
There are many ways to wrap dumplings. One of the most common ways of wrapping dumplings is to make them into a half moon shape or a small ingot shape. Pleating often shows how skilful the dumpling maker is, but simply squeezing either side of the round pasty around the filling is also fine for a beginner.
Let’s get wrapping:
To prepare the wrapper:
Simply use a packet of frozen wrappers which come in a round shape, defrost them before use. They can be easily found at any Asian Chinese supermarket.
If you wish to make your own wrapper, mix flour and water until you have a stretchy dough. Form the dough into a long sausage and divide it into small pieces, each piece about an inch long. Roll the pieces into flat circles, about 3 inches in diameter.
To prepare the filling (for 30-35 dumplings)
A popular pork and cabbage mix:
500g pork mince
About 5 leaves of white cabbage finely chopped
Several dashes of light soy sauce
A dash of sesame oil
A dash of oyster sauce
A handful of finely chopped spring onion
Put the pork mince into a large bowl, adding finely chopped cabbage. Break one egg into the bowl, followed by light soy sauce, spring onion and if you wish sesame oil, oyster sauce, spring onion to enhance the flavour. Mix all the ingredients in this large bowl together (being Chinese, I use chopsticks, but anything is fine) in a circular motion until everything is well mixed and looks gooey. The mixture should not be runny. If you are not sure if the filling is tasty enough, cook a small spoonful of filling in the microwave for a minute or so to taste. The flavour should be fairly strong. Adjust the taste until you are happy with your filling.
Now wrap your dumplings: Put a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper, fold the wrapper over the filling to create a half-circle shape, and press together. If the wrapper edges don’t stick together well, use your finger to dab some water and put on the edge of the wrapper. This should do the trick. Pinch the wrapper in the middle and create some pleats from one side towards the middle, and then from other side towards the middle.
Congratulations, you now have your first dumpling! Lay it on a flour-dusted chopping board, tray or plate and get ready to prepare some companions.
Now for the really exciting part – the cooking:
Use a large pot with water (2/3 full) and add dumplings into the pot when the water is boiling. Use a wooden spoon to make sure the dumplings are not sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the water comes to the boil again, add a cup of cold water and reduce the heat to medium. Wait for all the dumplings to come to the surface and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes, drain and serve. It is very common to use Chinese vinegar as a dipping sauce.
For those with an artistic flare, you can try your hand at different shapes! Strictly speaking, the wrapper should be pinched together with no gaps. Mixture that escapes from the wrapper during cooking is considered bad form by connoisseurs. It happened to me on a few embarrassing occasions! (Editor – Annabel Allen)