I got it – I think I got it: making jiaozi dumplings from scratch

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do another dumpling and noodle class. After all I’d seen a demo by Chef Ricky of China Sichuan at our Taste of China event in Cooks Academy. And then I’d spent Wednesday afternoon making what seemed like hundreds of dumplings with my quin jia (Shan’s MaMa) in the tiny kitchen of Shane and Shan’s apartment. I had watched in awe as she flew through rolling out perfect rounds from a simple flour and water dough, using what resembles a short length of broom handle as a rolling pin, and deftly wrapping them into perfect parcels for boiling or frying.

Two hands are better than one

And then there was the small matter of the hand-pulled noodles. That experience, which reminded me of rolling balls of wool for my Mum when she used to knit aran sweaters when I was a child, had left me feeling that I should stick to the knitting, or in my case stir-fries. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out to become a Chinese pastry chef, too old to learn new tricks etc. And there are always frozen dumpling wrappers in the Asia market.
I had watched and tried to learn from Ma Ma, getting comfortable at kneading and proving the pastry and reasonably competent at mixing the filling with just two chopsticks, stirring in one direction only, but rolling out of the pastry to make attractive parcels eluded me.
Hmm… not as easy as it looks

We were tired after our early morning market tour and a full morning of Sichuan cooking and I was tempted to give the dumpling and stir-fried noodle class a miss and sneak back to cuddle baby Dermot. Confession: I even fell asleep sitting upright over a Starbucks coffee mocha on our lunch break, (coffee being my only concession to a western way of life when in China). But we had signed up for the class a week earlier so we stuck to the original plan.
We were joined for the afternoon by the two lovely young Chinese and French girls who had been at our Tuesday noodle class and a fantastic young couple from Montreal – she French Canadian, he Lebanese. Elisa is now a political TV journalist who once ran her own restaurant where she had cooked for Leonard Cohen a number of times, definitely enough to hook me in. I would have loved to have had longer to get to know them.
So buoyed by the cheerful and enthusiastic company and Chun Yi’s good-humoured tuition, I gritted my teeth and decided to crack this dumpling-making lark for once and for all.
We learned about why you use salt or high gluten flour in some doughs and not in others and the effect of using more or less water on the consistency of the dough and then we got down to work, preparing the dough, leaving it to rest while making up our fillings
I was well pleased with my length of dough, ready to cut into individual wrappers.
Now this is more like it!

And suddenly it just happened, the trick of rolling the dough 90 degrees each time you cut a length and then squeezing each one slightly at the sides to get regular shapes; the pleasure of flattening each piece with the palm of your hand; the knack of rolling out the pastry, turning it 15 degrees each time as you stretch the dough away from you until you get that (almost) perfect round; using two chop sticks to place the right amount of filling on the disc and flatten it down; and the five (yes 5!) different ways I now know how to fold them depending on whether I want to boil or fry them or both.
Dumpling dough ready to be flattened

And I now know up to 6 more fillings to go with the pork and Chinese chive version that MaMa makes and the China Sichuan version. They are: pork and fennel (or chinese chives); beef (or lamb) with leek (or red onion); and a vegetarian one of baby chinese cabbage and dried mushrooms.
Jiaozi boiled and fried

Of course I was so excited at what felt like the first time I learned how to ride a bicycle that I forgot to take photos of the finished products. Elisa and her partner took lots though, with a VERY serious looking camera so I will update this post when she sends them to me on her return to Montreal.
Meanwhile you will have to believe me that they looked almost (well almost) like these  made by Chef Ricky and photographed by my friend Solange Daini. 😉
Ricky’s dumplings at Taste of China

Now learning how to make dumplings from scratch may not be the most important life skill I will acquire in the rest of my days but the pleasure of the achievement still brings a smile to my face and we couldn’t have Dermot having a nai nai who couldn’t make jiaozi could we?
To finish off the afternoon, Chun Yi showed us how to make chaomian – stir-fried noodles. Within minutes she had made up a basic flour, salt and water dough, slightly drier than the dumpling dough, rolled it thinly and cut it into thin strips. She boiled it for 2 to 3 minutes and then stir-fried it in a simple vegetarian dish of onion, green and red pepper. None of your pulling and dragging this time! No excuse for me the next time I run out of noodles so and quin jia has also promised to show me how to make her wide flat noodles next week.
Noodles in minutes

Quick wok!

Thank you Chun Yi and Hutong Cuisine for a fun afternoon that defeated jet-lag and for the great company and teaching.
See www.hutongcuisine.com – afternoon pastry class 2.30 – 6 pm, price 260 rmb (about €32) per person.
PS Nai Nai moment coming up. I’m writing up this post in Clovelly, NSW, Australia where we are having a lovely time with our daughter Claire and her husband Mike. Missing our little grandson though so it was lovely to wake up to this e-card today, our wedding anniversary.

Wouldn’t that bring a smile to anyone’s face. Thank you Dermot, Shane & Shan for making our day. 🙂

2 thoughts on “I got it – I think I got it: making jiaozi dumplings from scratch”

  1. A very belated happy anniversary, the same day as my parents! Sounds like you had a lovely trip. Will have to try out making my own dumpling wrappers next time, they look great.

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