Coming home from a long day at work in the InternChina Chengdu office, I was surprised to find my host family’s grandmother cooking in the kitchen. Being the courteous young man I am, I immediately dropped my things and went in to investigate, only to discover her chopping furiously away at a couple of poor cabbages. With my limited Mandarin skills, I managed to figure out she was preparing the ingredients needed for jiao zi (饺子, also known as dumplings), a well-known staple of Chinese cuisine.
With a huge butcher cleaver in my hand, I went to work on the cabbages and proceeded to shred them as finely as possible. Mixing in a series of green onions, ginger, and spices into the minced pork meat, the filling was relatively easy to get done. The REAL challenge came with the skins.
As she proceeded to deftly roll out the jiao zi skins one by one I struggled for a good five minutes on mine, ending with this result. Hardly round and not even symmetrical, I had to restart and practice on this one many times!
But after a few more tries, I think I got the hang of it.
Afterwards the jiao zi were filled and nicely folded (at least 姥姥’s were). Mine continue to be a work in progress!
There are various ways to cook jiao zi, including steaming them, cooking them in soup, and frying them.
Overall a pretty interesting experience, considering how easy it is to eat a jiao zi compared to the effort needed to make it. After making them for about three hours, we have enough to last us the month!
Some history on jiao zi: Originally called “tender ears”, jiao zi were used to treat frost-bitten ears in the north of China. No longer restricted to the north, jiao zi are as versatile as they come. Eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and served as entrees, appetizers, and main meals, the jiao zi is the jack of all trades for Chinese cuisine. Never out of place at any time of the day, there are no limits on how and when these delicious dumplings can be eaten!