Jiaozi Journey

5 06 2010

My “teaching assistant” (a horribly inaccurate title for Sarah, the teacher assigned to help me with all things I can’t do by myself, i.e. things that require Chinese language skills like ordering drinking water) invited to teach us to make dumplings a few months ago. Last week I got an email saying, “Are you free tomorrow evening? We may start our dumpling journey.” Sometimes, Chinglish reveals language gems.

Jiaozi (Geeow-ztah) is the Chinese name for these delicious delights. We usually buy them downstairs, either boiled or boiled then fried.

We were invited to Sarah’s best friend’s apartment. It was only our second time in a Chinese home, which is always a treat. Jeremiah might have to do a tour of the house in a future blog. There was Sarah, Fiona (Sarah’s roommate who we’ve met a few times), our hostess, Nancy, and two other friends of theirs. Nancy’s husband was working late but dropped by to shake our hands. I guess it was a BIG deal to them because we were “the first foreign friends” who had visited their apartment.

Of course, being that all of the women were only children who are never required to do anything but study, none of them know how to cook, let alone make jiaozi! They confessed it was the first time any of them had ever attempted to make it. Luckily, they invited one girl who knew how to cook. She told us her mother wouldn’t let her or her sister eat if they didn’t cook well! I guess that’s a common philosophy in the northwest where she’s from. We were also told that there’s an old saying that if you have a strict mother, you will be a good girl. (Or at least a hungry girl!)

The dough is made by adding water, with a pinch of salt, tablespoon by tablespoon into plain flour. Our expert mixed it patiently with chopsticks until decided it was ready to knead and then wrap in plastic for 5-10 minutes so it could ‘rest and get sticky’.

Then the dough is sliced into logs and rolled into a circle. It’s chopped again into small, dumpling wrapper sized clumps. Next comes the rolling. THESE ARE MY HANDS! I was a natural dumpling roller. You hold the edge with one hand and keep moving it in a circle instead of the doing the “pie crust” american method.

Detail photo of my newly acquired skillz.

The filling was Chinese leek (this was the translation of the vegetable they found but both of us are not quite sure leek is the best word), chopped scrambled egg, and chopped fried tofu. After the first batch they added some salt to the mix. I will add a heavy dose of garlic in my future attempts. The place downstairs does that and it’s awesome.

Filling the wrapper. Note the finished ones on the placemat.

I have watched the ladies on our street and they pinch the top together, the push the sides in like wrapping a Christmas present and the squeeze the whole business with both thumbs. Ta-da!

The pinch.

Well done, Fiona!

Toss them in a boiling wok until the float and then pull them out with a slotted spoon.

Jeremiah demonstrates his traditional Chinese plastic shoe protectors and how to eat jiaozi with vinegar. Mmmm…

Members of the Jiaozi Journey. I took this with my teeny pocket tri- pod and the self timer. It blew their minds.

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