Sunday, 21 September 2008

Northern dumplings with pork and cabbage (北方饺子)

During my first year in the UK, I lived in a flat in which there were 3 other ladies from Northern China, from Beijing, Shijiazhuang, and Shanghai (ok, that's not really north, but Shanghainese love dumplings there too). Their boyfriends used to come over sometimes during the weekends and they would make a big batch of dumplings together. It looked like great fun (and tasty too) and I joined them on a couple of occasions and got them to teach me how to make them.

Northern dumplings 3

Northern style (or Beijing style) dumplings (北方饺子/北京饺子)tend to be cooked in boiling water and then served hot with julienned ginger and/or minced garlic and/or chopped spring onions, but always with black Chinese vinegar (although some also serve a dipping sauce mix of chilli oil, light soy sauce and dark vinegar). Wrappers are sometimes sold at Oriental food stores in the fridge or freezer section. Just be sure to buy the ones for 'dumplings' or 'jiaozi' (larger, round and white) and not for wontons (smaller, square and yellow). Ready made wrappers save a lot of time but you need to know what type to buy, and even particular brands as they tend to vary in thickness. Too thick and they will taste floury; too thin and they might tear during cooking.

When I have more time, usually during the weekends, I would make the wrappers from scratch. It is more fun to do this with a few friends or family members. Make it into a social event, as is commonly done in China particularly during the new year festivities when family would gather to celebrate family ties. It is also worth making a large batch and freeze the extra. Frozen dumplings can be cooked directly from frozen which make them very convenient for a quick lunch or supper.

Traditional filling is pork and cabbage but other common meat fillings include beef, chicken, prawn and crab, usually mixed with chopped vegetables. Popular vegetable filling includes cabbage, spring onions, leek, coriander, Chinese chives and mushroom. A note about pork filling: when buying minced pork, be sure not to buy pork that is too lean. I normally buy extra lean minced pork for cooking but I have found that they are actually too lean for dumplings, making the filling too dense and chewy. Minced pork with slightly more fat gives a better texture and flavour. As they are mixed in with a lot vegetables and hardly any oil is involved in cooking, I don't mind the trade-off.

Ingredients (makes about 35-40):

For the wrappers:
300g plain flour
150ml water

For the filling:
250g minced pork (with a little fat)
4-5 stalks of spring onions, finely chopped
About 8-10 leaves of Chinese leaf/Chinese cabbage
2 small slices of ginger, skin scrapped and finely minced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp corn flour


1. To make the wrappers, place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Pour the water in slowly and in two or three lots, working the flour into a dough with your fingers and palm. With a loose dough is formed, remove onto a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, stretching and folding the dough over and over until the surface is slightly springy. When pressed with a finger tip, the dough should bounced back a little. Roll the dough into a large ball, cover with a damp towel or cling film and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

(This dough is essentially the same as for mee hoon kway.)
Mee hoon kueh 1

2. Cut out the white stalk/core of the Chinese cabbage (I tend to reserve it for a soup or stock or stir fry later as Chinese cabbage is naturally sweet). Finely chop the leafy portion, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and let stand in a large strainer or colander to remove excess moisture (this will prevent the filling from becoming too wet), for about 20-30 minutes. Squeeze the chopped leaves gently to remove moisture and set aside.
3. To make the filling, combine the minced pork, spring onions, Chinese cabbage, light soy sauce, ginger, light soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, salt, sugar, sesame oil, groundnut/sunflower oil, pepper and corn flour in a large mixing bowl. Combine and mix evenly.

Northern dumplings 1

4. Separate the dough into small sections and roll out into a long tube about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the tube into small pieces of about 3/4 inch (like cutting a sushi maki roll). Using a small rolling pin, roll out each each into a flat circular shaped wrapper, rotating the dough every couple of rolls to achieve a circular shaped wrapper.
5. Fill the centre of the dough with a spoonful of the pork and cabbage filling. Fold the wrapper over and press the edges to seal, making pleats if you prefer. You may need to moisten the edges with water before folding and sealing the wrapper. Place them on a lightly floured surface (baking sheets or large chopping boards are good) without touching one another.

Northern dumplings 2

5. Bring a large or wok of water to the boil and drizzle a few drops of oil into it (to prevent the dumplings from sticking. Place the dumplings into the boiling water and stir a few times especially at the beginning to prevent them from sticking. Cover and simmer gently for about 8-10 minutes until the dumplings are slightly puffed up and floating. Do not boil on high heat as the wrappers might tear.

Northern dumplings  4

6. Remove the cooked dumplings with a slotted spoon and serve hot with with julienned ginger, chopped spring onions and minced garlic in Chinese black vinegar and soy sauce. The last photo was taken with AP's phone camera because the batteries on my DSLR died!

Northern dumplings 5

Tip for freezing dumplings: place them on a metal tray (which speeds up the freezing process a little) or freezer safe plate, making sure there is space between each wonton, and place them in the freezer for a few hours. Once they are frozen, they could then be put together into freezer bags and not stick together as a clump.

Similar recipes:
Mee hoon kueh (面粉糕) hand-made noodles
Pork and prawn wontons

[Edit:] There are questions about how to roll the little pieces of dough into a circular wrapper, and if there are pictures. Unfortunately with my hands fully occupied and all floury, I wasn't able to take any photos! But I found some pictures online that might help you visualise the steps.

This one was taken from this website. You can see the little pieces taken from a long tube of dough. They are holding short rolling pins and using that to flatten the small dough pieces and roll them into a circular shape.
Rolling jiaozi dough

Chow Times also has a useful pictorial guide to making jiaozi. Flatten the small piece of dough a little with your palm, and then use a small rolling pin to roll from the edge to the centre of the dough (this will flatten and stretch that section), rotate the dough a little, roll from the edge to centre (flatten and stretch a new section), rotate the dough etc. Repeat until a circular shape and desired thickness is achieved (rotating the dough is very important to get an even shape and thickness).
Making jiaozi wrappers


VeggieGirl said...

So fun how you learned how to make the dumplings!

didally said...

You make me feel like making some! I guess I will have a try with the store-bought wrappers first. :P

noobcook said...

omg, you made your own dumplings... how amazing and spectacular. They look really good! The photos are awesome too!:D btw, do you freeze the dumplings before or after cooking? If the latter, how long can you store them in the freezer?

Happy cook said...

Delicious, have bookmarked to make them

mycookinghut said...

Fantastic! I would love to make the wrappers from scratch!! It's so simple.
I agree with you on using slightly fatty minced pork! It really make the texture different.
Love dumplings!! I am drooling now!

Nate-n-Annie said...

we make jiaozi / gyoza at home but haven't yet made our own skins. I think that is the hardest part.

Could you show us how you actually roll out the dough into a circle?

Nilmandra said...

Veggiegirl: I had good teachers!

Didally: Store bought wrappers is a good way to start. You can also vary the filling depending on what you like.

Noobcook: I have acquired different cravings from different countries, what to do! The dumplings are frozen before being cooked. You can cook them later straight from frozen. They will do fine in the freezer for a couple of months, although they've never lasted that long in my house!

Happy cook: Thanks, glad you liked them!

My cooking hut: Yeah, sometimes you have to put the health-conscious brain on hold ;)

Nate n Annie: No photos as my hands were fully occupied and floury! But I have added some textual explanation to the original post, and found some pictures that might help. I'll ask AP to take photos for me the next time I make them.

Little Corner of Mine said...

I really like your filling, looks really good.

Beachlover said...

what a nice looking home make dumpling!! I think DIY dumpling is healthier than the one sell frozen in the supermarket,Atlast we can add our favourite meat and ingrendiets

Nilmandra said...

Little corner of mine: Thanks! They were really tasty, and I have more in the freezer, yay :)

Beachlover: Yeah it's always nicer to make your own since you know exactly what goes into them and can make your favourite filling. Thanks for the compliment!

Kristen said...

What a cool recipe... very informative post! Yum!

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

These look fabulous. . .I better get our dumpling maker on these right away.

Mrs Ergül said...

Homemade dumpling wrapper! you're my heroine!

Sophie said...

Hi :),

We would like to feature your dumplings on our blog and possibly our digital-recipe reader, too.

Please email if interested. Thanks :)

You can read more here:


Nilmandra said...

Kristen: Thanks!

Eatingclub Vancouver: "Dumpling maker"? Is that a machine or a person? ;)

Mrs Ergul: I had good teachers!

Sophie: Thanks for the invitation. I'll check it out and get back to you :)

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