If we were playing street food top trumps* the Chinese dumpling would be a serious all round contender, filling, tasty, juicy, soft, crispy. It’s versatile that’s all I am saying. You know it might fall in the spicy ratings to a kebab, or lose out on crispiness to a deep fried cockroach, but it knows what it is and what it does.
This will be far from my final word on this subject and I am going to provide my first recipe in a bit. Although my dumplings are far from great, the recipe is solid, it is the folding technique that needs a little work, that and the speed.
Right, where do I start? Dumplings or Jiaozi come in many different forms. I will just today be dealing with the fried dumpling. The particular type I am going to look at is what the Americans call pot-sticker dumplings but we can call them guōtiē (please note at this point I am making an educated guess at what it is I have made and had. Please feel free to chip in your 2 pence worth if you have other names for this (Sophia especially)).
Part of the beauty of street food in China is its availability and affordability. This is also its danger. “I asked for five, there was an offer on six then he snuck in a couple more for another couple of kwai and then he rounded it up to ten.”
Warning: The particular dumpling pictured in the photo is a fried, pork soup dumpling. The first one I bit into must have leaked because there was no soup in it. The lack of boiling hot pork broth lead me to believe that the subsequent dumplings were in fact plain fried pork dumplings and that all caution could be thrown to the wind with regards to biting into them. Enough said.
For the record though, I would like to say to whom it may concern: “I am sorry, I was wrong. Pig broth will wash out of jeans and no, I have no idea how I got none on myself.”
So anyway these dumplings, soft on the top crispy on the bottom and warm, soupy and meaty on the inside, like a turtle on its back.
As I have mentioned already, the pan-fried dumplings are my favourite with the range of textures involved but there are many others with their own unique charms I will talk about at another point.
The basic method from what I can ascertain from watching the chefs at work in the open kitchens (as most kitchens tend to be on the street) is as follows:
This is not a recipe as such, one will follow once I am happy with my own but for those that can work their way around a kitchen this is a basis to do your own thing. I think there is plenty of room for exciting adaptation of this recipe.
Make a broth high in gelatine, usually chicken and pork
Set gelatine broth and divide into cube portions
Roll dough out into cylinder
Tear off pieces and press with hand, (or roll with turning motion in the palm).
Take flattened circle in palm and place gelatine broth cube (with meaty chunks!) in middle, wet sides.
Start pinching from end to end forming seal (crescent shape).
Flatten base so that it sits up right in pan.
Drop in hot oil (very hot).
Pour stock in hot oil (the fun bit. If you hurt yourself following this procedure… good, you’re a dick).
Cover pan, the top will steam and the bottom will crisp.
As the gelatine broth heats it will melt and form the soup now fully encased in the dumpling shell.
Serve with chilli, soy and vinegar for dipping.
That is all for now, for anyone that needs their hand holding through a recipe I will follow up with one in the next week or so. Its not that hard to figure out, the trick is keeping the soup in the dumpling!
*(and of course we wouldn’t be because doing so would be very sad, especially constructing your own deck and carrying out some kinds of endurance tests on various foods, that would be too much, would it?
**(for turtle on its back you must go to the next cart on the road).