Jiaozi Making

February 7, 2015

Chinese New Year falls on February 19th this year and somewhat in honor of that it was decided that our loosely organized and very non-official wine tasting group would learn to make Chinese dumplings, called Jiaozi. Margy and Wes offered their home. Wes made arrangements for four representatives from The Confucius Institute of UC Davis to come over and walk us through the Jiaozi-making steps. And Andy, the wine professor (also the faculty director of the Institute), and Frances, who works at Senders Wine, offered to bring wines that would pair nicely with Jiaozi.

I loved every minute of this evening–always love a hands-on cooking demonstration and am thrilled to learn a little something about which I know almost nothing (I’ve read this sentence a million times and know something’s off, but 1) I sorta like it and 2) I can’t figure out how to fix it).

Here are our instructors:

Dan “Danna” Cao, Sa “Sally” Wu, Mei “Meg” Liu, and deputy director of the institute Dr. Lixia Liu.


First, we donned aprons and hats. Here are Tara and John trying to unfurl an apron–good thing the wine was already flowing.. on many counts.


Here are Jim and Tobin with freshly washed hands…all ready to handle food. (I’m sure this picture will come in handy one day for something.)


Here is the busy scene in the kitchen as everyone got properly washed up, covered, and assumed their position at a station around the island.


Sally was lead demonstrator and was an excellent explainer. Here she’s chopping Napa cabbage, one of the ingredients in the pork stuffing (which also contained mushrooms, green onions, ginger, egg, rice wine, soy, s/p and a bit of sesame oil):


This is Jim stirring the pork filling. Two things that were new for me: stirring with a pair of chop sticks and making sure you stir in one direction only. Sally had a very compelling reason for this which I can’t quite remember. That is indeed a yogurt container. I don’t think that part’s essential, but the dimension works nicely.


They also made a vegetarian filling, which used all the same ingredients minus the pork.

Then it was on to the dough. They’d made a batch ahead of time because the dough needs to sit at room temperature for a couple hours to fully bind, but they showed us how to make and knead the dough, which is very simple (just flour, water and a pinch of salt).  I’ll always remember “the three smooths,” which signify you’ve kneaded sufficiently: 1) hands free of flour/dough; 2) bowl free of flour/dough; 3) dough absolutely smooth and non-sticky.

At this point, they got out the earlier-made dough, which had a great consistency after sitting for 2-3 hours; very easy to work with. The first thing you do is cut off large-ish hunks and shape them into rolls like this.. about an inch in diameter:


Then cut into pieces about 1-1 1/2 inch long. You turn the roll of dough 90-degrees before each cut in order to maintain diametrical symmetry (otherwise the roll would flatten a little bit more with eat cut), and you end up with pieces that look like jumbo jet-puffed marshmallows:


Then you flatten them with the palm of your hand and commence to roll, using a rolling pin that looks more like a thick (1″) dowel.


There is a lot of acquired technique to this and it’s a little hard to explain, but it involves some quick in and out swipes across half the dough disk with one hand, turning the disk a quarter turn with the other hand, and doing it again–in and out. You repeat this many times–and if you’re good and experienced, you’re going really fast–until you get a round, flat pancake-like sheet that is slightly thicker in the middle than on the outer edges:


You put about a tablespoon of filling in the middle, fold the sides up to meet one another in a half-circle, then perform any number of sealing operations. I have a feeling that each chef has his or her own signature technique.  Here’s what they look like… these are all done by amateurs…


…theirs looked a lot better:


They get transferred to a pot of bubbling hot water and boil until all have risen to the surface. Over the course of this boiling process, you add cold water to the boiling water to try and maintain a constant temperature.

They also showed us how to make potstickers. For those, you put oil in a non-stick frying pan, place the dumplings in the oil, add water and cook until the water is gone. These had a very nice crusty finish on the bottom and a wonderful texture. I favored these. Because they’re stiffer (and less slippery), they’re much easier to negotiate with a pair chopsticks, as well.

When they’re all cooked up, you serve with the dipping sauce of your choice.. soy with chile oil, for example.

The rest of us brought side dishes. Tamala made her wonderful broccoli-cranberry salad, Wes made chicken wings and this was the Asian-Style Cobb Salad Jim and I made (which I really liked a lot..romaine, carrots, red bell pepper, green onions, avocado, mandarin oranges, hard boiled egg, served with a dressing of rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy, sugar, ginger and garlic):


Then we ate:

Jim, Frances, Tobin and Wes:


Tamala and Andy (missed Catherine, home with a dental issue):


Wes got the best picture.. all of us at the table in one shot:


Clockwise from Wes’ empty chair: Danna, Tara, Meg, John, Tamala, Andy, Margie, Lixia, me, Jim, Frances, Tobin, Sally.

Tara made another great dessert, this time a lemon meringue pie. No pictures, shame on me. Too busy eating it. A perfect, sweet/tart finish to a super savory, flavor-rich dinner.

Then we talked ’til all hours.

’twas a really nice evening. Came home with a detailed step-by-step recipe and jiaozi how-to.. sure we’ll give it a try some time!

2 Responses to “Jiaozi Making”

  1. hard to get past the hats……Happy New Year almost

  2. Kari Says:

    I know. Why do you think there are no pictures of me? Hee hee.

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