Thursday, March 04, 2010

Jiaozi, coming to a city near you

During the recent national holiday, a traditional activity is to make a traditional food together: dumplings, known as "shui jiao" or "jiaozi" in this country. Mothers and grandmothers all over the country whip up the "xiar" or meat/vegetable filling, throw together the dough (just flour and water), and then everybody rolls up their sleeves and starts to "bao jiaozi" (literally "fold dumplings"), making them together.

It's a fun group activity as long as you keep the chopsticks with the raw meat in the raw meat bowl and don't accidently use them to eat your dumplings! It can be a little time consuming as well, since everything has to be chopped very finely and our national friends insist that if you chop and roll everything by hand, (as opposed to using a food processor), it's more tasty. Call me crazy, but I think they're right!

Random trivia for you, according to some of my neighbor lady friends, traditionally, you don't just make and eat jiaozi on the lunar New Year's Eve, you have it all prepared, including the water boiling, so that at the stroke of midnight you plunge the jiaozi into the pot of boiling water. "That's the way to eat jiaozi!", they told me with beaming, satisified faces.

One of our friends suggested having a jiaozi party during the holiday, so we enlisted our house helper and prepared for a festive evening. The possibilities for the fillings are endless: green bean and meat, green onion and pork, pork and cabbage, egg and tomato, shrimp and egg, egg with black mushrooms and green onions, carrot and beef, you name it! For our party we chose three favorites: cabbage and pork, carrot and beef, and egg and tomato.

I can "bao" the dumplings all right; mine are not particularly pretty but that's all right. Actually, everyone has their own style, from perfect fan shaped dumplings made with three folds on one side and three on the other, to rounder packages made by folding the dumpling closed using the space between the thumb and first finger, all at once in one smooth movement. So I sat down and assigned myself to that role. The fun is to talk, laugh, and have a good time together while doing the (seemingly endless) handiwork.

Here we are in the midst of the messy fun: the girls are already eating some that were freshly boiled, even as I and some friends are still folding the dumplings. With jiaozi, there's always a party in the kitchen!
This next picture isn't me at my most flattering, but I thought it was a funny picture. Yum, yum, jiaozi!
We like to eat them dipped in a bowl of dark vinegar with a few drops of sesame oil, with a little spicy sauce on the side.

The girls had a great time with their aunty making the jiaozi!

These were ones that I made. Not perfect, but deliciously edible!
We all enjoyed the jiaozi so much that night that I have decided it will be on my "take to America" repetoire. The last time we were in the States, we did a little cooking as we visited various friends and relatives, and it was really fun! But up until this morning, I didn't know how to do all of the jiaozi process. Now I am learning, and plan to make it for friends and family that we see as we travel during April and May.
So, if we're coming to see you, let me know if you're interested in eating jiaozi! We'll bring our skills with us!


Liz said...

I wish you were coming to see us! That sounds so fun and delicious! Have a wonderful time in the States!

Kristie said...


We would LOVE for you to make this for/with us! They look and sound delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'll second Kristie's comment!

Rebecca VE