Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jiaozi (/dumplings/potstickers)

Pia taught me to make these in our California apartment back in 2000, and Kev and I made them around or on New Year's Eve in 2003, 2005, 2006 and now 2008. It takes some time, but it's fun to assemble these while watching a movie or chatting with willing helpers. I haven't figured out a good veg version. That's the next project.
The directions as she gave them to me are in regular font, my notes are in italics.

You will eventually need about 2 packages of wonton skins/wrappers.

combine in one very large bowl:
2 pkg/2.5lb of ground pork (about 1 K)
2 T soy sauce (more)
2 t salt
2 t black pepper (more)
1 t white pepper (more)
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 T cooking sherry or other aromatic alcohol
1 t Chinese five spice

Stir these ingredients in one direction to keep the meat fibers sticking to one another so the jiaozi don't fall apart when cooking. I use my hands to mix this part.

Cover and refrigerate.

All of the remaining veg need to be finely minced so the meatball sticks together and doesn't fall apart. I've done the chopping by hand (hi Pia!) in the past, but now I use a food processor which greatly improves efficiency. The zen of chopping obviously suffers when electricity is employed. You decide what you need more at the time you are making these - a snack or enlightenment. It may vary year to year.

1 inch ginger
3-4 green onions
2 small handfuls of cilantro
1 bunch chives
Either: 8-10 stalks of celery
Or: 1 small head of Chinese/napa cabbage
(I like to mix half and half - 4 stalks of celery and 3/4 head of napa cabbage)
Optional: 2-3 carrots (yes)
Optional: 3-4 shiitake mushrooms (yes)
Optional: one fried egg (I've never tried this)

This year, after I processed the vegetable ingredients, I placed the mound of shredded veg in cheese cloth and squeezed most but not all of the excess liquid out. I wish I had thought ahead to reserve the liquid for a kickin' miso soup. Duh. Kelly would have remembered to do that...

Stir veggies gradually in to the meat mixture, keeping an eye on the moisture content.
It should stick together very easily. If it falls apart, it could be because a) the mix is too dry in which case add more veggies or oil, b/ because it's too moist in which case add a little more meat. Test scent. It should be very aromatic. If it's not yet, add a little more brandy, sesame oil or onion. Test consistency. Fry a teaspoon or so of the mix. This step is very important for seasoning adjustments and you also get to EAT! Eat fried bit and test flavor. Your entire tongue should get a little bit of life. If necessary, add a few spices to supplement. Fiddle until you're happy.

Clear a flat horizontal space in your freezer large enough to fit a cookie sheet.

On a large work surface, lay out:
Bowl of meat/veg filling
wonton wrappers
2 cookie sheets
a spoon for each helper
little ramekins of water for each helper
a small saucer for each helper

To roll:
Take about 1 T filling (less is more) and place into the center of wrapper. Bring one half up to meet the the other half. Seal thoroughly. This usually means creating pleats in on half and gluing with water brushed on with your finger. If they are not sealed, they fall apart when cooking and that's gross.
Kev won the design competition this year. I let go of my need to make little "package" shaped nuggets with rolled edges when I realized that his streamlined design made the wrapper cling nicely to the meatball once they were boiled and it tasted great that way too. Mine looked like a trapezoid and his looked like a mailing envelope. This year, I liked the mailing envelope version.
Once you've filled a cookie sheet of dumplings arranged in rows, but not touching, place sheet flat in the freezer. In the time that it takes to assemble enough to fill a second sheet, the first batch will be frozen enough that you can slide them gently in to ziploc bags to store frozen. Of course you will also want to cook some right away and have a snack!

To cook:
Bring about 3 inches of water to boil in a large pot. Add enough jiaozi to cover the base of the pot. When the water comes back to boil, add 1 C of cold water. Repeat this step a second time with another cup of cold water and wait until the water comes to a third boil. Note: If you stop before the third boil, the meat will not be cooked through. Also, if you don't add cold water each time, the jiaozi will fill with air and explode.
You can also fry them once they are boiled.

To serve:
They are typically eaten with a sauce constructed of soy, vinegar and sugar. (about 1/4 C SS + 1/4 C vinegar + 1 t sugar). They are also good with plain malt vinegar. To ensure that the sugar has dissolved completely, heat briefly. For more flavour, add a little sesame oil, hot oil, maggi (available in most chinese stores) and/or chili pepper as you wish. We served with plain old soy sauce.


gwen1234 said...

You and I have been friends for way too long for us never to have made these together. Next year in Baltimore!

hefk said...

Next year in Balti!
I can't believe you also made something with wonton wrappers for new year's. Our cooking brains are mind-melded.

gwen1234 said...

Cooking brains! Mm, delicious brains.