Jiǎozi – Chinese Dumplings: Let’s Get Cooking – Hénán Province, China

For her homework assignment in our Oral English class, Lucy not only gives us the background for this important Chinese holiday food that can be eaten every day but also  makes the preparation sound easy.  Actually, it’s not hard, but making  jiǎozi  is time consuming.

photos from – http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-chinese-jiaozi-leeks-and-pork/

Usually family members get together to mass produce the dumplings that are  part of celebrations especially for the 16 days of Chinese New Year and Spring Festival.  So the making  of the dumplings can be a social event.

When Ellen, the head of our ZAFU English Department, invited all of us foreign teachers over for an end-of-the-school year party, she asked the Chinese teachers who  teach English classes to arrive early to help with the dumplings.  When Barry and I arrived, they were all very busy.

Jiǎozi preparation at Ellen's

It's necessary to make many jiǎozi even when there is much other food because they are impossible to stop eating after only one or two.

Jiǎozi – Chinese Dumplings

—By Lucy

Here is how it all started- says Lucy

Originally, the word  jiǎozi  didn’t mean dumpling. It was used to describe the darkest hour-11 at night to 1 in the morning, when beer and spirits were slushing in stomachs and eyes were bloodshot and blurred. How better to soak up all that booze than a big plate of dumplings.  So they added the food radical to the character for the midnight hour, and ended up with  jiǎozi .

Starting in the capital Chang’an, the current Xi’an in Shanxi province, in the north of China, in the Han Dynasty, two thousand years ago, it was thought that eating  jiǎozi would bring luck, wealth, and happiness.  Maybe this was because they were shaped like ancient gold ingots, or maybe just because a meat that tasty was bound to bring luck and wealth!

Gradually, it became a ritual for any special occasion: weddings, births, and most of all, the cold nights of Spring Festival–as if you need any excuse to eat these tasty morsels.

One danger, though, is a bad dumpling. Dense, flavorless, greasy, broken, or soggy-this is the least auspicious way to bring in the New Year. The world of Chinese wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Wikipedia cautions not to confuse wonton with jiǎozi, “Jiǎozi have a thicker, chewier skin and a flatter, more oblate, double-saucer like shape (similar in shape to a ravioli), and are usually eaten with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce (and/or hot chili sauce); while wontons have thinner skin, are sphere-shaped, and are usually served in broth. The dough for the jiǎozi and wonton wrapper also consist of different ingredients.”

How to make Chinese dumplings- jiǎozi

Dumplings are one of the most popular traditional foods in China.  You can choose your favorite vegetables and other fillings to cook for your favour taste.

Filling: pork (or beef), sesame oil, sugar, salt, vegetables, flour, cool water

Seasoning: vinegar

[Note:  Many of the recipes I received from the students did not contain ingredient amounts.  The students learn from their moms and other family members who have cooked the dishes so often that they know how the dish should look and taste.  They don’t really know the proportions to tell others.  So in this case, I’ve looked up a recipe on-line to give those of us who need specifics a chance of producing a jiǎozi that is similar to what Lucy’s family makes].

[ Ingredient list and specific instructions from


Recipe: Chinese Jiaozi / Leeks and Pork Dumplings 

Ingredients:  {You can actually use whatever you want for the fillings — and even create vegetarian dumplings}

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup of chopped chinese chives
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon rice wine
A few dashes of white pepper powder
5 drops of sesame oil

For the skin:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water

For dipping:

Black vinegar]


Mix the flour with water and knead it for about 20-25 minutes or until the dough gets soft. Separate the dough into two equal portions and roll them into cylinders (about 1 inch in diameter). Cover them with wet towel and set aside.

Prepare the chives by chopping off the root (white part) of the chives. Use only the green part. Mix the chives with ground pork and add all the seasonings. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

To prepare the skin, cut the dough into 1/4 in. length and use a rolling pin to flatten it until it becomes a round skin about 3 inch in diameter. Put a small spoonful of filling into the center of the skin and seal it up tightly with your fingers. (No pleating is needed for this recipe).

Heat up a pot of hot water until it boils. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water and cover the pot. As soon as the dumplings start to float (meaning they are cooked), dish them out on a serving plate. Serve hot with black vinegar.]

Lucy, however, gives general instructions that provide you opportunity to be creative in making your jiǎozi.

Mix your favorite vegetables with oil, sugar, chop chives, salt and pepper until fine and keep it for more than 12 minutes; then squeeze out the excess water.

  1. Outside skin: Add water to the flour and knead into smooth dough in a bowl and keep for 10 minutes. Rolling each to a thin and flat circle. If you find it’s difficult to make the wrappers, you can buy some in markets, but take care that they are labeled for  jiǎozi  instead of for wontons.
  2. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and keep some extra flour within hand’s reach. Filling 1 portion of filling in the center of a dough circle and fold without leaking.
  3. Then cook the dumplings by boiling or frying, just as you prefer.
Lucy is from Sanmenxia City in Hénán Province.  Hénán means “south of the Yellow River” although part of  the province  lies north of the river.
 According to http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/henan/sanmenxia/a legend of the area is that Yu the Great, the ancient hero of controlling torrential flood in prehistoric time, slipped up the high mountain into three gorges. Hence the city gained its name of Sanmenxia (three gate gorges). As an important headstream of Chinese civilization, it was the central region of the Xia (21st – 16th century BC) and Shang (16th – 11th century BC) dynasties.

Special Local Products of the region include apricots, apples and jujubes of Lingbao City, black fungus and Chinese gooseberry of Lushi County, dried persimmons of Yingchi County.

Lucy from Hénán Province

Lucy wants to travel and be a reporter.  She hopes you enjoy this wonderful Chinese traditional dish —  jiǎozi –Chinese dumplings.

Jiǎozi with dipping sauce - yummy

Photo from http://stockfoodmotion.com/image-picture-Jiaozi-with-prawn-filling%2C-cabbage-salad-and-chilli-dip-00395810.html



You might invite friends over and spend time together making the dumplings — and then eating the tasty Chinese treats.

Zài Jiàn and Aloha, Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “Jiǎozi – Chinese Dumplings: Let’s Get Cooking – Hénán Province, China”

  1. elmer says :

    I looooove dumplings! NIce post

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