My husband and I attempted to make homemade jiaozi (dumplings) a week or so ago. We happened to randomly pick the day that you are traditionally supposed to eat jiaozi on: what is supposed to be, according to the lunar calendar, the hottest day of the year (but that I can tell you which was nowhere close to the hottest day we've had in Beijing!)
We tried to remember as best we could the instructions we learned from the Hutong Cuisine cooking class that we took. Neither of us took home the recipe... DOH. Majorly kicking ourselves for that!
So, we looked everywhere for the little wooden-stick-thingie (擀面杖 or ganmianzhang in Chinese) that you are supposed to use to roll out the dough (yes we made homemade wrappers and everything!) Unfortunately, we couldn't find one anywhere, so we used some quick thinking and scoured our kitchen for an acceptable replacement. Adapt and overcome, right? Luckily, we found this thing... it goes in a plastic pitcher we have, and you usually freeze it to keep the drinks cold. It also doubles as a decent little-wooden-stick-thingie, as I like to call it!
The hubby rolling out the dough. I'll be honest... about 10 minutes into working with the dough, I decided we were crazy for trying to make our own jiaozi and left the dough-work to my husband. Working with dough is hard, people! Especially when you use the wrong measurements - oops! Silly waiguoren (foreigners).
Our not-yet-cooked, not-quite-visually-appetitizing jiaozi. OK, OK. We need to work on the dough. Some parts were too dry, others too wet - noted! We spoke with our Chinese teachers who gave us some little tricks, which we will definitely try next time.
The next funny part - we decided to steam them. It was only after our decision that we realized we didn't bring our proper steamer with us to China... so, again, we improvised and used a strainer. It worked, except some of the jiaozi "skin" stuck to the bottom of the steamer. Our teacher again gave us a tip - you are supposed to place a thin damp cloth on the bottom of the steamer to ensure the sticking doesn't happen.
And ohhhh... the best part in my opinion - the dipping sauce! I could seriously drink this stuff, people. It was SO good. MMMM. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! The key is to use good quality Chinese soy sauce and Chinese vinegar. I put a little of each, some fresh crushed garlic... a little bit of fresh ginger - to be honest, I can't really remember if I used ginger or not... but I may have... and a spicy red pepper cut into small pieces. The sauce was out of this world!
Despite our dough mishap... the jiaozi were truly delicious! And well worth the effort. We did a traditional filling of pork & cabbage (with some green onion, garlic and ginger, soy sauce. I've since been told Chinese don't put garlic in the filling. I love me some garlic and the filling came out so good, garlic is definitely going in again next time!)
I'll get another chance to work with dough tonight - we are going to make our own homemade noodles, then stir fry them with veggies and pork. Luckily, I remember the process for the noodles, and this time I'll hopefully get the water to dough ratio right ;)