Jiaozi (JOW-zah) a Chinese dumpling, is a traditional Chinese food—one of the most widely loved foods in northern China. It typically consists of a ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping. Now Jiaozi is widely spread to Japan, Eastern and Western Asia. This is because of many reasons. Here is a list of them.

The Chinese New Year – Spring Festival

The custom of making jiaozi a special dish during the Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, started in the Ming Dynasty, some 500 to 600 years ago. The reason is simple. In ancient China, yuan bao was used as currency before the use of jiao zi paper money. The appearance of jiaozi looks like the V-shape gold and silver ingots known as yuan bao. As the Spring Festival marks the start of a new year and eating the dumplings during the Spring Festival is a metaphor for eating money, people hope that it will bring prosperity and good luck for the forthcoming year. Although time has changed, the tradition has remained, today, jiaozi is considered more as a sign of blessing than of fortune.

History of Jiaozi

In ancient times, Jiaozi’s shape looks like a horn, was called ‘Jiao” (literally “horn”). It was also called “bianshi” (literally “flat food”) due to its flat shape. The term jiao zi has multiple meanings, one of the meanings means “midnight or the end and the beginning of time.” This is why the jiaozi are made the midnight of the last day of the passing lunar year and Chinese people eat it right between eleven pm and one am. Another meaning of the term comes from the literal translation to “sleep together and have sons” which is a long lost good wish for a family. Not only does the shape of the jiao zi resemble the golden ingots, it also represents a crescent moon and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty. Occasionally people will add specific fillings to select dumplings in order to symbolize certain wishes. Those who receive sweets will have a sweeter life, peanuts symbolize long life, and dates and chestnuts represent the imminent arrival of a son. Because the word “dates” is homonymic with the word “early” in Chinese, so are chestnuts, the syllable “zi” is homonymic with children. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance of wealth in the household.

Rich Chinese families in ancient times would add gold, silver, and other precious stones in their dumplings. To get one of these dumplings was considered good luck. Later this transitioned to adding coins in the dumplings. Copper coins, for example, meant that one would never lack money. In contemporary times, only a few coins were washed and add to the batch of dumplings, the person who discovers the coin would enjoy good luck and make a lot of money in the coming year.

Delicacy & One For All

Chinese dumpling is a delicious food. You can make a variety of Chinese dumplings using different fillings based on your taste and how various ingredients mixed together by you.

Usually when you have Chinese dumpling for dinner, you will not have to cook anything else except for some big occasions. The dumpling itself is good enough for dinner. This is one of the advantages of Chinese dumpling over other foods, though it may take longer to make them.

How to make Jiaozi

Like most Chinese people, I started making jiaozi when I was a little kid in my family. In the beginning, it is more like a game than prepare food. My mom would give me some pre-made dumpling skinsso I do not make a mass with the dough and flour. Just stuff the filling on top of the dumplingskins, fold and close it together, well, it may not look as pretty as my mom’s jiaozi, but it is done and that is what all counts, easy! Most Chinese like me know how to make jiaozi but not many are good at making the skins, which is the hardest part of making dumplings.

Making the Dough & Dumpling Skins:

–  2 1/2 C unsifted flour

–  1/2 tsp. salt

–  1 C boiling water

–  1 Tbsp. lard, cut up into little pieces

Mix the flour and salt. Add the boiling water and stir with chopsticks. Add the lard. Knead all and let rest on a plastic counter under a bowl for 20 minutes.

To make dumpling skins: Break off a piece of the dough the size of 1 teaspoon. Keep the rest of the dough under the bowl. Roll the dough into a ball and then roll out into a 3-inch circle. You may need extra flour for this. Or, use a tortilla press that has been very lightly oiled with peanut oil on a paper towel. This gets you going and the rest of the rolling is easy. To store skins until use, dust each skin lightly with flour and stack on top of one another.

If you are pressed for time, you may want to purchase a package of pre-made dumpling skins (the round ones) from any local Chinese supermarket. Don’t buy the square ones–those are for won-tons!

Making the Filling:

–  1 cup finely chopped Napa cabbage

–  1 lb. lean ground pork

–  2 Tbsp. light soy sauce

–  2 Tbsp. dry sherry

–  1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

–  1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

–  1 Tbsp. sesame oil

–  Pinch of sugar

–  1 Tbsp. chopped green onion

–  1 egg white

–  1 Tbsp. cornstarch

–  1 tsp. salt

–  4 Tbsp. medium chopped bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (optional)

–  2 cloves garlic, crushed

Sprinkle salt on chopped cabbage and let sit in a colander for 30 min. Squeeze dry (either by hand or in a potato ricer) and place into bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix well. Also add a splash of chili paste, to taste.

Construction:

–  Place dumpling skin in the palm of your hand. Dip a finger in cold water and wet the edges of the dumpling skin.

–  Spoon a lump of filling (approx. 1 Tbsp.) into the middle of the skin.

–  Fold dumpling in half. Pinch top of semi-circle together.

–  Push in on both sides of dumpling, so that the dumpling should look like the letter “I” from the top.

–  Bend one half of each “top” of the “I” and press against middle edge of dumpling. Seal all edges of dumpling.

–  Your dumpling should look like a half-moon with a big bulge in the middle!

– To cook, drop into a big pot of boiling water under they float to the surface. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

References:

Savory Chinese Money by Arthur Wang, Eimi Watanabe, Alex Lee, Arlene Kim, Hsiang June Chou http://www.anthro.uci.edu/html/Programs/Anthro_Money/JiaoZi.htm>

Chinese Dumpling <http://chineseculture.about.com/library/weekly/aa020298.htm>

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