I got my hands on some premade jiaozi skins at Carrefour the other day (32 skins for 2.3 RMB). Life changing stuff. It cut dumpling-making time by more than half and transformed the activity from a physically demanding to a mentally calming one (as long as I’m not questioning what they put in the dough). The act of wrapping and sealing dumplings lets me block out the world and focus on the task at hand, bringing me back to childhood days of arts and craft, with an added bonus: the anticipation of a good meal to come.
On Thursday (yes, a workweek night), I made a batch containing grated zucchini, egg, and finely chopped wood ear/black fungus (木耳, mùěr). While not as fragrant as Chinese chives, the zucchini had a delightful mild sweetness and crunch, while the tiny bits of scrambled egg mixed with crunchy wood ear formed a texture reminiscent of lean ground pork.
The store-bought skins were slightly more springy/chewy/rubbery than my homemade ones, and more translucent and glossy once cooked. Because they’d been sitting out for at least half a day, they were also a bit drier — but with a fingertip of water, still very workable. Too bad the skins only keep for 1-2 days (according to the guy at Carrefour), or I’d totally stockpile that shiet.
The following night, we made potstickers (锅贴, guōtiē) out of the dozen uncooked dumplings we had left over. Pan-frying dumplings involves quite a bit more work than simple boiling, but the crunchy end result made them even more of a delight to eat.
Zucchini-egg-wood ear jiaozi (角瓜鸡蛋木耳饺子)
500g (~2 small) zucchini, tops and ends removed
3 large pieces wood ear/black fungus (~1/4 cup finely chopped)
3 medium eggs (or 4 small eggs), beaten with 1 tsp of water
1 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
~3 dozen pre-made dumpling skins
Water for sealing
Flour for dusting
Black rice vinegar
Soy sauce to taste
Sesame oil to taste
Filling: Place wood ear pieces in a bowl of water to soak. Peel and grate zucchini. Grab handfuls and squeeze out as much water as possible, then transfer to a colander. Add a small amount of oil to pan and “scramble” eggs on medium heat, breaking them up into very small pieces while cooking. Remove from heat and let cool. Once wood ear is soft and jelly-like, cut off the hard center bit, then chop finely. Transfer grated zucchini into large bowl, add egg, wood ear, and salt, sesame oil, and white pepper and mix thoroughly.
Wrapping: Place a small spoonful of filling onto center of a skin. Dip a finger in water and run wet fingertip around the edge of the entire skin. Fold in half, sealing the center first, then pleat from center outwards — or simply crimp and seal the edges tightly, ensuring there are no holes. Place on a floured clean, flat surface (e.g. chopping board). Dumpling should be plump but not threatening to burst. Repeat for all skins, making sure dumplings are not touching. A pool of liquid from the zucchini may start to form in bottom of bowl; try to keep filling as dry as possible by draining with the spoon as you go.
Boiling: Boil a large pot of water. Gently drop dumplings into water, and cook until they float to the top and skin looks translucent and is not doughy when you bite into it. Dish them out with a slotted spoon or spatula, and serve with vinegar.
Pan-frying (will need to cook in batches): Add about 1 tbsp of oil to a non-stick pan (more oil for other pans). Place dumplings smooth side down in a single layer, then turn on heat and fry for ~3 minutes until the bottoms have browned. Add ~1cm of hot water and cover with a lid. Let cook until most of the water has evaporated. (The crusty side will have turned soggy.) Lift the lid and continue to cook until all water is gone and the bottoms have hardened and crusted again, then use chopsticks to flip to another side, cooking until golden brown. Serve with vinegar.
(If there is filling left over, save and add to your next meal. That stuff will fit right in with any stir-fry or even pasta.)
Where to find: