You can find Nai Nai wrapping dumpling skin on the floured counter during almost every Chinese holiday, or bagged dumps in the freezer as a go-to weekend lunch. What’s special about Jiao Zi isn’t just the various flavors, from pork and scallion to egg and chive, but the multitude of holidays in which they span. From Chinese New Year to the Winter Solstice, dumplings have sealed themselves more tightly to Chinese tradition than your grandma with her dumpling skin. And hopefully she won’t need to scold you along this recipe.
On the night Chinese medicine legend Zhang Zhongjing 张仲景 retired to his hometown, snowflakes encrusted his bulletin board beard. The cold wasn’t like any other type of winter night, it was the chill that penetrated your bones and tightened your invertebrate. After noticing that the villagers lacked thick winter clothes to protect their bodies, he shoveled through his case to find body-heating spices. He agonized at the rows of frozen ears, acknowledging that sympathy wasn’t his only responsibility: Zhongjing asked his disciples to set up a medical tent to feed the suffering. The disciples chopped up mutton, chili pepper, and cold-repelling medicines, wrapping the ingredients into curved shapes representing the townspeople’s ears. They then boiled the “ears” in a pot to make a kind of medicine called “cold-repelling and ear-correcting soup”. Steam climbing to the view of every villager’s windows, the suffering discovered warmth and kindness boiling under a small mobile tent. Zhongjing’s involuntary act of empathy thawed the pain of many. Later, people employed the cold-repelling “ears”, now called “dumplings”, to warm families during the Winter Solstice.
This recipe is a Wang family staple, pleasing both the picky grandpa and the health conscious older siblings.
Pork and Napa Cabbage Dumplings
- 1 lb. (450 grams) ground pork
- 1/2 lb. (250 grams) shrimp, peeled and deveined or ½ cup of dried baby shrimps sold in Chinese groceries
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger,
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce,
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 lb. (450 grams) Napa cabbage
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 package dumpling wrappers
For the filling:
- Combine ground pork, shrimp, ginger, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt, and white pepper in a large bowl. Stir with a spatula until the ingredients are well combined and form a sticky paste. Thorough mixing is essential here so your dumpling filling will stay together when wrapping.
- Cover with a plastic wrapper and allow to marinate in fridge until you’re ready to wrap the dumplings.
- Cut the cabbage into small cubes and set aside.
- Sprinkle 2 pinches of salt onto the cabbage and mix well with your hands. Allow this to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze out extra water with hands.
- Add the napa cabbage, green onion, and sesame oil into the pork mixture. Stir to mix well.
For the wrap:
- Scoop about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling and place it in the center of the wrapper.
- Dip your finger into a small bowl of water and wet the outer edge of the dumpling wrapper.
- Fold both sides into a half-moon shape and pinch the middle points together.
- Hold the dumpling with one hand and start sealing the edges into pleats with the other hand.
- Once you have sealed the dumpling, firmly press the pleated side with your fingers to make sure the dumpling is well sealed.
- Place dumplings onto a well-floured cutting board.
- Bring a big pot of water to a boil.
- Place 20 dumplings into the boiling water. Turn the flame to medium, continue cooking.
- Stir the bottom of the pot occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Once the dumplings float, add ½ cup cold water, bring it to boil, when the dumplings float again, add ½ cup water again. When the dumplings float, they are done.