Making Chinese Dumplings (jiaozi) from Scratch – an unlikely cure for jet-lag

It was a gloomy November Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after I had arrived back from Beijing. Winter had sneaked up on Ireland while I was away, the evenings were closing in and there was a noticeable nip in the air. I was jet-lagged and disoriented, my head and heart still drifting between two worlds, seeing in my mind’s eye the now familiar rituals of Shane, Shan and Dermot’s Sunday afternoon.
I took refuge in cooking. I made two large batches of dumplings while catching up on the episodes of Downton Abbey that I had missed. As I punched and kneaded the dough and found the rhythm of rolling out near perfect discs, I felt the connection with my family and the world I had left behind in Beijing. Cooking is therapy.
It was Li Dong on 7th November, the first day of the Chinese winter. As if on cue, the weather in Beijing had changed from a balmy 17 degrees to a sharp, dry chill in bright sunshine. Legend has it that if you don’t eat dumplings on Li Dong, your ears will fall off when the cold snap comes. I was taking no chances and tucked in with gusto to Shan’s MaMa’s pork, cabbage and shrimp dumplings served with her  homemade chilli paste.
The previous day I had attended a dumpling class at Black Sesame Kitchen. This was my third dumpling class. I had been to one at Hutong Cuisine in March and another led by the chefs at China Sichuan in Dublin during the last Spring Festival. But you can never learn enough about making dumplings and every class brings it’s own tips and tricks plus some lovely new recipes for fillings. Besides dumpling lessons are great fun and a great way to make new friends over a glass of Chinese beer (loosens the dumpling wrapping skills I’m told!) as you compare your misshapen efforts. I came home with left-over dough which MaMa turned into noodles for Dermot’s dinner. No waste in China, ever.

Dumpling fun at Black sesame Kitchen
Dumpling fun at Black Sesame Kitchen

Now back in Dublin, I wasn’t taking any chances on the falling off ears thing (it wouldn’t be a good look for the wedding!) and I also wanted to put the techniques into practice before I forgot them again. Continue reading Making Chinese Dumplings (jiaozi) from Scratch – an unlikely cure for jet-lag

A Taste of China with China Sichuan Dublin at Cooks Academy

Regular readers will recall that I came back from a visit to my son Shane and his wife Shan in China late last July brimful of enthusiasm for learning how to cook authentic Chinese food but with very little idea where to start. Shortly afterwards Kevin Hui, owner of the China Sichuan, Sandyford Dublin invited me inside his kitchen where I got to see his chefs in action. You can read about that day here. I got  lots of inspiration from the experience and as a result this blog began to gain momentum. Since then I’ve been encouraging Kevin to put on a cooking demo for a wider audience of food bloggers and home chefs so they too could share the experience of seeing Chinese chefs wield a cleaver and wok and work magic with dough for dumplings.
The opportunity came with a special event in Cooks Academy last Sunday to round off  the Taste of China part of the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival. Before an audience of around 30 people, head chef Ricky and his assistant Andrew demonstrated how to prepare the famous Sichuan dish “Fish Fragrant” Pork. Then we all did our best to replicate the dish under the watchful eyes of Michelin-star chef Colin O’Daly, Ciaran from Cooks Academy and the chefs from China Sichuan.
Later Ricky showed us how to make Waltip “stick to the pot” dumplings. As the afternoon wore on,  and we wrestled with what by then resembled play dough, in an attempt to recreate Ricky’s delicate and perfectly-formed jiaozi, the mood descended into giddy good humour. Efforts were compared, the thickness of the pastry was closely examined, rueful looks were exchanged over misshapen dumplings and there were some surprisingly expert looking results too. Joanne Cronin of Stitch and Bear earned herself a Cooks Academy Certificate and a goodie bag from Asia Market for the best looking dumplings of the day.
It was all great fun but we learned a lot too and got many tips and insights from our skilled, professional chefs. More than anything the afternoon reminded me of the Chinese belief that food is for sharing, in the making of it and the eating of it. Our cheerful celebration of the shared pleasure of Chinese food was a fitting end to this year’s Spring Festival. Thank you China Sichuan, Dublin Chinese New Year Festival and Cooks Academy for making it possible.
These photos of the afternoon, taken by my friend Solange Daini, capture the mood of the day better than words can. Thank you Solange!
PS: You can see all 21 recipes from Taste of China, including the recipes from last Sunday on the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival website here.

An attentive audience for Shananigans’ talk on Chinese food

Hope you learned something new

Ricky and Andrew get ready to rock and roll

Concentrate now

Hmm, these guys are good at this

That’s it, plated up in minutes

Read that recipe carefully

Yes chef!

Need any help ladies?

Getting stuck in

Advice from the Michelin man

Here’s how you do it

Now what next?

Looking good

And so you should be pleased with yourself

Now for the first round of washing up

This is not as easy as it looks

Even Andrew needs convincing

But let’s try anyway

Is this right?

Show me

How are you getting on?

Yeah, got it!

You see, like this

Guess which one Ricky make?

Ciaran has the knack

What do you think?

That’s right, let the chef do the work!

Oh that looks right

Just stretch it

A hive of activity

Time to build up a head of steam

Looking good

Part steamed, part fried

Getting some last minute tips from Ricky

Now what has she got there

Ah, prize-winning dumplings

Much more to talk about

Dumplings come in many shapes

But always taste delicious

Thank you Solange, from all of us!