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Why I Learned How to Make Chinese Dumplings (and How to Make Them Yourself!)

KATIE RAPP | APRIL 27, 2020

My love of Chinese dumplings - 饺子 (jiǎo zi) - runs deep. They are so delicious and I do a happy dance every time it is dumpling day at our house. Dumpling day used to mean that we either ordered them from a local Chinese restaurant or opened up a bag of frozen dumplings from the nearest grocery store. That is not what it means anymore.  


Now it means that I bust out either the pre-made dumpling wrappers - 饺子皮 (jiǎo zi pí) - or the flour to make wrappers. Now it means choosing our filling - 馅儿 (xiànr) and making it exactly how we like it. Now it means filling, pinching, boiling, steaming, and frying.  Dumpling day now means a full kitchen with giggles, messy hands, and deep family bonding.


To think I used to be intimidated by dumplings.



Why I was Intimidated to Make Dumplings


Now that I know how to make Chinese dumplings it is hard for me to remember why I was so intimidated by the process of making these delicious little pouches. It goes back to the reason for being intimidated by anything new, I didn’t understand how to make them. I didn’t think it could be as easy as it was. I was worried I would mess them up and no one would trust me to make them again.  

Everyone loves my dumplings and I regularly make them for family friends that want some traditional Chinese food. I had a friend that lived in China for many years tell me my dumplings tasted very authentic. I smiled for days thinking about that lovely compliment. And to think I would have missed it if I had never tried. 

There is a general belief out there among us non-Asian people, that Chinese food is very difficult and complicated to make. I have now, as a Chinese mother (my daughter is Chinese so I feel qualified to say that) learned many traditional Chinese recipes. Just like the dumplings, they aren’t hard. They take time, and there are sometimes many steps and ingredients, but they aren’t hard. I would encourage you to step outside of your culinary box and try to make dumplings or even fried rice. They are staples that seem hard but are simple and tasty.

Why I Wanted to Learn


I do realize that not everyone wakes up one morning and decides that they want to learn how to make Chinese dumplings, but I had a few very specific reasons. 


  • My daughter is Chinese. 19 months ago my husband and I added our fourth child to our family; a 13-year-old Chinese girl. Food is such a social thing in China. It is important. I knew that to show her how much I loved and cared for her I needed to learn to cook some basic Chinese dishes. Not only cook them but cook them properly. I immediately went to the local Chinese market and talked to anyone that would know about Chinese cuisine. Bonding with my daughter was worth the effort and now making Chinese dumplings, and really any Chinese food is easy. 


  • Dumplings are culturally significant. Dumplings are food that are eaten during some of China’s holidays. The most notable holiday for dumpling eating is Chinese New Year. These are eaten during this time because dumplings signify wealth so eating them during New Year celebrations will bring you wealth in the coming year.  Even though we are a fairly new multicultural family, we do celebrate the Chinese New Year. We will typically have another Chinese-American family over to eat dumplings and long-life noodles - 长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn).


  • I love eating dumplings. So why not learn??? Everything is better homemade, right?  

How I Learned


I want to say something really amazing here like a sweet Chinese lady took me under her wing and taught me the secrets of dumpling making, but that wouldn’t be true.  

Pinterest taught me.  

It was really a matter of trial and error. There was one blog I found on Pinterest that had a really great filling recipe but the wrapper recipe didn’t pan out. So I found a wonderful wrapper recipe from another site. This is the same way I learned fried rice, noodles, and steamed buns. Trial and error. 


I will say that the best recipes and tips came from blogs written by Chinese people, so look at blogs written by people that really know what they are talking about and what authentic Chinese food is. 


As far as the technique of pinching the dumplings closed, my daughter taught me. It was a really fun moment of the student becoming the teacher and her being able to give me a piece of her culture.  

The Best Part of Making Dumplings


For me, the best part of making dumplings is really two-fold. The front runner would have to be the family bonding. It is not something that only my older daughter and I do, but my 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter love helping also. It becomes an opportunity to bond over their sister’s Chinese heritage and culture, giving them a stake in it as well.



The other part that would be a close second, if not a tie, is eating the dumplings at the end. The fruit of our labor is absolutely delicious and worth every dumpling wrapper pinched to perfection (and some not so perfect) and dipped in the best homemade dumpling sauce out there. But nothing beats family bonding. 

My Family’s Favorite Recipe


This recipe is our favorite. I got the basic recipe off of Pinterest but changed it up a little bit. We don’t use homemade wrappers unless the Asian market is out of premade dumpling wrappers but they are easy to make, just a little time-consuming. Time-consuming is not what you need when you have a house full of hungry people wanting dumplings. 

Ingredients


  • 1 lb of ground pork (this will make a large number of dumplings, around 3 ½ dozen) - 猪肉 (zhū ròu)
  • 1 Tbls fresh grated ginger - 生姜 (shēng jiāng)
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce - 酱油 (jiàng yóu)
  • 1 Tsp sesame oil - 香油 (xiāng yóu)
  • 1 Tsp white pepper - 白胡椒 (bái hú jiāo)
  • 1 Tbls minced garlic - 大蒜 (dà suàn)
  • One small package chives chopped - 韭菜 (jiǔ cài)
  • Dumpling wrappers - 饺子皮  (jiǎo zi pí)

Mix the filling ingredients and start filling the wrappers. Pinch them like you would a paper fan to make a little purse like package.

I boil the dumplings until they float and then steam them for 5-7 mins or pan-fry them until one side is crispy. Do not flip the dumplings if you are pan-frying them.  

My family prefers them fried. 


Share Your Dumpling Experience!


Have you tried to make dumplings at home? 


Share your experience, recipe, and dumpling-wrapping tips in the comments below!


If you want to learn more about how to say different kinds of dumplings, and other common Chinese food staples like beef noodles, rice, steamed buns and more, check out this lesson from our Beginner Conversational Course: