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What is Jiaozi?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 16, 2024
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A staple of the Chinese New Year festivals, jiaozi is a type of Chinese dumpling, usually filled with meat. Traditionally symbolic, these dumplings are usually said to represent wealth or luck, depending on their shape and filling. They are often served with a soy sauce or black vinegar-based dipping sauce. These dumplings may be made at home or found frozen in specialty grocery stores.

Thinner than wonton skins, jiaozi wrappers may be purchased pre-made or made from scratch using flour, water, and sometimes salt. When making the wrappers from scratch, flour and water is kneaded for 20 to 30 minutes, then rolled into a cylinder shape about 1 inch (2.54 cm) in diameter. Once rolled, it should be cut into quarter inch (0.6 cm) long sections then flattened with a rolling pin. Alternately, the dough can be rolled out in one large sheet, and a circular cookie cutter can be used to cut out the individual jiaozi wrappers. If dough is not used immediately it should be covered with a wet cloth to prevent drying.

Most commonly the filling in jiaozi is pork, but chicken, beef, or shrimp may also be used. For vegetarian versions, vegetables can completely replace the meat. When using beef or pork, the meat should contain enough fat for extra flavor, but not too much that the fat will leak out of the dumpling. Meat is normally mixed with chives, rice wine, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. The filling may also include cabbage, bamboo shoots, garlic, cilantro, ginger, or soy sauce, depending on the recipe.

After the filling is mixed, some recipes suggest placing it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to help combine the flavors. Though many recipes give the instructions for making the wrappers first, it may be more time conscious to make the dough while the filling is sitting in the fridge. Not all recipes suggest giving the filling time to mix flavors, however, so that step is optional.

Once the wrappers are cut and the filling is prepared, a spoonful of filling is placed in each jiaozi wrapper and then the wrapper is folded over and sealed firmly. Dumplings are either formed into a half moon shape, by gently pressing an index finger against the center of the closed dumpling, or into an circular, or ingot, shape by joining the ends. The ingot shape resembles a type of Chinese coin and is therefore said to symbolize wealth.

Dumplings are usually boiled in a pot of water. They are finished when they float to the top and remain floating. Steaming in a bamboo basket is another cooking option.

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