Recipe 8: Jiaozi (Dumplings)

We all know them as dumplings, or–more likely–wontons. However, in China, there is a distinction. When I first got here, I asked where I could get some wonton soup. No one knew what I meant. I later found it–“húntún” in Mandarin–in a chain restaurant. This was one of the first things that led me to ask myself Do I even know what Chinese food is? It turns out that most of the Chinese food we have in America is (Americanized) southern Chinese food, otherwise known as Cantonese food. This food is from Guangdong Province (whose capital city, Guangzhou, is translated as ‘Canton’) and Hong Kong. I would later understand this during my visit to Hong Kong, where I recognized quite a bit of the food and food names. 

Anyway, it seems that the biggest difference between wontons and jiaozi is the shape of the wrapper. I’ve also been told that wontons only belong in soup, but this may just be a non-southern opinion. I suppose I will find out when I explore wonton recipes later. The shape of jiaozi is what makes it significant; because its shape is similar to ancient Chinese coins, it is eaten during the Chinese Spring Festival to bring luck and prosperity in the new year.

Jiaozi was surprisingly easier to make than I thought, so long as you buy pre-made wrappers. After a girl’s night with two of my favorite ladies, we decided to tackle them together, as we often do with other foods. We didn’t have (or didn’t like) everything in the recipe, so we made it our own.

First, we made the filling, and let it sit in the refrigerator for about half an hour…

There’s no such thing as too much garlic.

The next step was balling the filling, and putting it in the center of the wrappers…

Make sure the balls are small enough that you can still close the wrappers!

To seal the wrappers, we put a ring of water on the outer edges, and folded them in half, pinching the edges…

Keep that filling inside!

You can stop there, or fold the edges in a wave-like pattern if you want to be traditional like we did…

Fold. Pinch. Repeat.

Finally, we threw them into boiling water (and a little oil)*…

Ready to boil.

The dumplings were finished when they started floating, and we served them with a dipping sauce.

Hao chi!

*Aside from the wrapper shapes being different (jiaozi wrappers are round and wonton wrappers are square), by steaming the first bunch, we learned that jiaozi wrappers are thicker, and thus are best when boiled. We also found that leftover filling makes for good crispy meatballs!

The Recipe! (Makes about 70 jiaozi)
What you need:
  • Brown vinegar
  • Lajiao (spicy chili sauce)
  • Soy sauce

Et al

  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil (peanut or vegetable)
  • 1-2 cups of grated cabbage (optional)
  • 70 jiaozi wrappers

What to do:

  1. Mix all ingredients (sans wrappers, of course) in a bowl; let marinate in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  2. Roll meat into small balls; place one in the center of each wrapper.
  3. Using your fingertip, put a little water on the outer part of each wrapper (around the meat).
  4. Fold each wrapper in half, pinching at the end.
  5. At this point, you can be finished; or, to give it the classic jiaozi look, fold the edges into a wave-like pattern, then squeeze each end toward to center, creating a purse-like effect.
  6. Place into boiling water with a little oil; Jiaozi will be fully-cooked when they rise to the top (about 15-20 minutes).
  7. Serve with dipping sauce (which can be made to your preference).
  8. Enjoy!

Boiled bi steamed hao (boiled is better than steamed)

Jiaozi (Dumplings)


Easiest if you skip the traditional shape.


Especially if you fry up the leftovers (or just the leftover meat)!


9 thoughts on “Recipe 8: Jiaozi (Dumplings)

    • Yep, sometimes they do call them shui jiao. What I love about that is, if using the incorrect tones, it means “sleep”. There’s a joke here about a man going to a restaurant for dumplings, and wants to know the price, but he accidentally asks the waitress how much it costs to sleep with her!

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