Monday, August 8, 2011

Chinese Dumplings

China has been perfecting the art of dumpling making since the Sung dynasty. Chinese dumplings may be round or crescent-shaped, boiled or pan-fried. The filling may be sweet or savory; vegetarian or filled with meat and vegetables. Of course, all this variety can be confusing. Recreating homemade versions of dim sum favorites can be a challenge when you’re faced with recipes for “Jiaozi,” Har Gow,” and “Siu Mai,” with no pictures. Here is a description of different types of Chinese dumplings:

These crescent shaped dumplings with pleated edges are normally filled with meat or vegetables, although you’ll occasionally find recipes calling for more unusual ingredients such as shrimp and even winter melon. The filling ingredients are enclosed in a flour and water dough that is thicker than a wonton wrapper. The dumplings are frequently boiled, although they may also be pan-fried. Serve with Ginger Dipping Sauce.

Potstickers (Guotie, Peking Ravioli)
The difference between jiaozi and potstickers comes down to how the dumpling is cooked. Potsticker dumplings are pan-fried on the bottom and then steamed. It’s traditional to flip them over before serving so that the browned, pan-fried side is on top.

Gow Gees
The words Gow gee and jiaozi mean one and the same: Gow gee is simply the Cantonese romanization (representation) of the Mandarin jiaozi. However, gow gee recipes normally call for the dumplings to be cooked by steaming or deep-frying instead of boiling. Wonton wrappers are an acceptable substitute for dumpling skins in most gow gee recipes.

Har Gow (Har Gau)
These plump snacks filled with shrimp and bamboo shoots are famous for a smooth, shiny skin that is nearly translucent. The secret to the dough is wheat starch, available in Asian markets – you won’t get the same result using a flour and water dough or wonton wrappers.

Siu Mai (pronounced “Shu My,” also called Cook and Sell Dumplings)
Mild tasting steamed dumplings recognizable by their cup or basket shape, with the filling sticking out at the top. One food writer compared eating Siu Mai to biting into a soufflé, because the dumpling is so soft and puffy. Traditionally they are filled with pork, although shrimp or prawns are also used. Siu Mai are normally made with round skins: use round (gyoza) wrappers or square wonton wrappers cut into circles.

Shanghai Steamed Buns
Not buns at all, but meat or seafood-filled dumplings famous for being very juicy and flavorful. Shanghai Steamed buns are recognizable for their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gather up into several folds prior to steaming.

Did You Know? In northern China, it is customary for families to spend New Year’s Eve preparing batches of Jiaozi dumplings. Families start eating the dumplings after midnight. And, just as nineteenth-century English cooks hid a silver thruppence inside each batch of Christmas pudding, one lucky family member may bite into something hard and discover a gold coin inside their dumpling.

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