There’s something really satisfying about biting into a perfect dumpling. The tug of dough, the burst of steam, that first hit of flavor. My Ayi regularly makes dumplings for us, and they are one of my daughter’s favorite foods. Her choice of fillings tends to be the traditional Chinese fillings of vegetables or pork with chives. I have tried making the dumpling dough and wrappers myself, and whilst they turn out ok, I’m a firm believer in taking short-cuts if they’re there. Some of the bigger Jenny Lou and Jenny Wang stores stock fresh dumpling wrappers. They’re not quite as thin as my Ayi manages to achieve, and are a little larger in circumference, but as long as it takes no more than two bites to devour the end product then it’s still a traditional dumpling.
The crescent-shaped dumplings are the easiest ones to make at home. Dumplings can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried. Made with fresh wrappers and eaten hot, the perfect pan-fried guo tie, or potsticker dumpling, should have a golden brown, ultra-crisp fried bottom, with a skin that’s springy and chewy. There is an infinite range of fillings for dumplings, and last weekend I thought I’d go a bit experimental with the kids. I wanted to see whether I could incorporate some western flavors into my dumplings, and include a sweet dessert one too.
What child doesn’t love Nutella? My kids love it spread on toasted bagels. I prefer it spread thinly on a crêpe, preferable whilst sight-seeing in Paris. Nutella is more than just a ‘chocolaty hazelnut spread,’ it is a fantastic ingredient that can be used in so many different desserts. It also makes a tasty filling for jiaozi when combined with banana.
Nutella Banana Pot Sticker
2 medium-sized ripe bananas, sliced
Vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar (to dust dumplings after cooking)
Place a dollop (approximately 2 teaspoons) of Nutella in the center of the wrapper. Place a slice of banana on top of the Nutella. Dip your finger in a bowl of cold water and use it to wet the edge of half of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and pinch it together in the center. Make pleats on one side of the dumpling, and then the other. In a pan, heat a half inch layer of vegetable oil. Place the jiaozi carefully into the oil with the pleats facing up and out of the oil. When the wrappers are golden brown, flip them over and cook the pleat side. When the pleat side is golden brown, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to cool slightly and soak up excess oil. When they have cooled slightly, put them on a plate and dust with powdered sugar.
For a savory filling with a difference, try a tartiflette-type filling of chopped mushrooms, bacon, potatoes, onions, and a little bit of Reblochon cheese. A French pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, Reblochon has a yellow rind with a delicate flavor and a creamy texture. It has a rather distinctive smell which for some is too pungent, Fontina or Port Salut make good substitutes.
Tartiflette Jiaozi Filling
2 big waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
200g bacon lardons
100g Reblochon (stinky cheese), cubed
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
White mushrooms, finely chopped
Oil, salt, pepper
Boil the potatoes until cooked. In a frying pan, heat enough oil to brown the onions. Then add the garlic, lardons, and mushrooms. Let the meat cook. Add the cooked potatoes to the pan, mix and mash. Add the cheese and mix through. Add salt and pepper as desired. Then divide the mixture between your ready-made jiaozi wrappers, fold, pleat, and crimp as you desire and cook as you wish.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: Sally Wilson