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A Dish from Beijing, China:

Boiled "Jiaozi" Dumplings

This time, "Cuisine of the World" features Beijing cuisine. We visited the famous restaurant "Zuien Bekkan," where you can enjoy the authentic flavor of Beijing, China, even when in Japan, with Kinji Sugita, who has been posted a total of 3 times in China (both in Beijing and in Shanghai) for Marubeni, and Mrs. Sugita, and were taught the secret of how to make delicious boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings.

When she heard that it was settled that they would be living in Beijing, Mrs. Sugita felt a little gloomy. This was because 20 years earlier when she had stopped off when going on vacation to Europe, her experience and impressions of Beijing airport had not been good. However, once the Sugitas and their daughter actually began living in Beijing, actually she found that "Life in Beijing was very comfortable indeed!" She discovered that an abundant range of foods and ingredients were available when she went shopping, so she never felt any inconvenience, and that for just a few hundred yen it was possible to enjoy one's fill of authentic Chinese cuisine. Mrs. Sugita gradually became familiar with her local surroundings, taking lessons to learn the Chinese language, Chinese ink brush painting, Chinese tea ceremony, Taekwondo, erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle), etc., and a few months into their stay, she had come so far as to be able to enjoy doing her shopping in the local public market while bargaining over prices.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sugita's hobby was visiting famous sites of historical interest. "People usually visit the part of the Great Wall of China which is closest to Beijing, but if you go just about 3 hours by car, there is an even more magnificent spectacle of it to behold," he says. His wife and daughter too "were both moved by how enormous and beautiful the Great Wall of China is." In the spring of 2003, when tourists had vanished due to the outbreak of SARS, Mr. Sugita was able to enjoy the world heritage site, the Beijing Gugong, all to himself. Even now, Mr. Sugita occasionally visits Beijing, and for him there is one thing that he finds disturbing and saddening. Beijing has traditional houses from the Ching dynasty called Siheyuan, composed of a quadrangle enclosed by a wall, but these are now being destroyed one after another due to redevelopment, and the residents are moving into new apartment blocks instead. "They are disappearing at a rate many times faster than old buildings are disappearing in Japan, and old people are losing their traditional place and way of life." Mr. Sugita is distressed by the disappearance of the old city and the way of life of the good old days, while his wife, Mrs. Sugita, talks of her memories of Beijing with animation and nostalgia. To both of them it seems Beijing has become something of an "adopted hometown."

How to Make boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings: Serves 5 to 6

Ingredients
For the filling:
500g pork mince
1/ 3 cabbage
35g leek
5g ginger
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of "Aji no Moto" or similar monosodium glutamate (MSG) seasoning
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of laojiu
30g of Japanese pepper water (or instead, a pinch of ground Japanese pepper).
For the skins (dough)
400g flour
200g bread flour
1 cup of water
2/3 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of lard.
How to Make
  • 1

    First, make the filling of the dumplings. Add the finely chopped ginger, leek and cabbage to the pork mince, then add the appropriate amounts of sugar, MSG seasoning, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, laojiu and Japanese pepper water (or ground Japanese pepper) and knead the ingredients thoroughly to mix them up well.

  • 2

    Next, for the key component of boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings: the skin (dough). First knead the dough, by gradually adding water and a little salt to the flour and then adding the lard and kneading it all together. After kneading for a while, cover the dough with cellophane wrap and leave it to rest for about 10 minutes before kneading again. By repeating this 3 times, the dough will take on a firm texture, which will enable you to enjoy a chewy texture after boiling. You should aim for a texture that resembles slightly firm chewing gum.

  • 3

    Divide the dough into smaller pieces by breaking them off with your fingers, and after sprinkling some bread flour, press the pieces until they are flat. Then use a rolling pin to make them even flatter. When you do so, the knack is to make the center part, which will become thinner when you put the filling afterwards, thicker, and to make the outer edges of the skin thinner.

  • 4

    Take an appropriate amount of filling in your hand, and use a spatula to push it in and fill up the skin. When you do this, it works well if you use your middle and 4th finger to create a hollow.

  • 5

    Firmly stick the two sides of the skin together by pressing them closed. When you do so, take care to ensure that the thickness of the skin is even all over.

  • 6

    Get a generous amount of hot water ready in a deep pan, and put the dumplings in gently. They will sink at first, but after a while they will rise to the surface, and when they do so, add one cup of cold water to the hot water. By doing so, the dumplings will soak up the cold water, creating the unique texture of boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings. The dumplings will be ready to scoop out and eat after 1 minute from when you add the cup of cold water.

Chef's Tips:

* When kneading the dough, take care to remove any air to prevent it from becoming trapped in the dough.
* The skins will become soft if you leave them for about 15 to 20 minutes after kneading.
* Adding the cold water when boiling the dumplings is also for the purpose of shrinking the skins to finish them off. This is the secret to achieving their chewy texture.
* One difference with the sort of "Chinese dumplings" (called "gyoza") which are commonly eaten in Japan is that boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings contain ginger instead of garlic.
* Japanese pepper water is used as a secret ingredient or "hidden flavor." This is made very simply, by adding Japanese pepper seeds ("sansho") to boiling water and leaving it to cool, so please try making it!

In boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings from the North of China, the "Skin" is the most important element 
(Kiminari Harimoto, President of "Zuien Bekkan")

In China, people prefer their "Jiaozi" dumplings to be boiled rather than pan-fried (which are more popular in Japan). The main style of cooking is to boil the "Jiaozi" dumplings, and pan-fried dumplings are usually the left-over dumplings from making boiled dumplings, which are fried up the next day. Because boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings are the same shape as the old money used in China, they are supposed to bring good luck, and were therefore often eaten at New Year. The reason why dishes involving wrapping up food such as boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings and Beijing duck are common in cuisine from the northern regions of China is that rice could not be grown so the staple food was flour and dishes made with flour. Each household has their own recipe and taste when they make boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings and the filling can be made using any sorts of ingredients from pork, to beef, mutton, seafood, vegetables, and egg. In the southern regions of China, where food is abundant, the "filling" is considered the most important, but in northern regions, the "skin" is what determines how well the boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings have been made. How well can the chewy texture be realized? – this is the key point to the deliciousness of and difficulty in preparing boiled "Jiaozi" dumplings.

Cooperating Restaurant

Zuien Bekkan (Main Restaurant)
Shinjuku 2-7-4, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel
03-3351-3511
Fax
03-3351-3511
By public transport
3 min. walk from Exit C4, Shinjuku San-chome Station or 5 min. walk from Exit 1, Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station, both on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
Opening hours
Weekdays 11:00 to 15:00, 17:00 to 23:00
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 11:00 to 23:00
* Open 365 days a year.

From: “Shareholder’s guide Marubeni,” Vol.99 (published in December 2005)

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