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Chinese dumplings – How to make it from scratch

Eating Chinese dumplings is a delightful experience. The juice flowing from the filling flows immediately to every corner of your mouth, waking up all the taste buds and sending a euphoric feeling through your senses.

That’s pure food-love, and you know that one bowl of these delicate dumplings will never be enough! 

How to make Chinese dumplings.  (The filling, dumpling skin, wrap the dumpling). Also, how to make potstickers 锅贴 and boiled dumplings 水饺.

Making Chinese dumplings is a custom in Northern China during the New Year. It is when all the family members reunite, no matter how far they have traveled. Every member will gather in the kitchen on new year’s eve, taking up their respective roles assigned by the grandparents since childhood – preparing the filling, wrapping, and shaping the dumplings. 

This dumpling-making ritual is a family affair. It’s the moment the youngster retold their childhood stories and sharing their encounters while away from home. The elderly will repeat their same old advice to their grown-up children as if they are still three-year-old kids in their memory. 

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What is in this article 

In this article, I will explain how to make Chinese dumplings from scratch. I will make it as simple as possible, assuming you are single-handedly preparing a batch of homemade dumplings. Of course, you get your parents, siblings, and kids involved to make a large batch, just like we did during our new year reunion gathering. 

Here are what you will read:

  1. Two classic Chinese dumpling filling recipes, one with pork and Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), and the other with chives. 
  2. How to make the dumpling wrappers. (You can use the store-bought one to save time). 
  3. A foolproof method to wrap the dumplings
  4. Two ways to cook the dumplings.
  5. How to make the dipping sauce. 

Let’s get into the details right in. 

1. How to make the classic dumpling filling 

Making dumpling filling is easy. Here are the steps :

  • Mince the meat (chicken, pork, or beef) 
  • Chop the vegetables (chives, cabbage, or scallion) 
  • Combine the meat, vegetables, and seasonings. 
  • Mix the filling by throwing it repeatedly into the bowl. 
  • Let the filling rest in the refrigerator. 

Pork is the most common meat used in Chinese dumpling making, followed by chicken and beef. If you do not eat pork, any pork filling can be substituted with chicken meat for a pork-free recipe. 

How to make a juicy filling? 

Here are some tips for you:

  • If you use pork or beef, choose the meat with at least 20% of fat. 
  • If you use chicken meat, increase the fat content by including 1 to 2 tbsp of cooking oil for every 250g (8 oz) of chicken in the filling. 
  • Add water to the filling. You will be surprised that the filling can hold up five to six tablespoons of water for every 250g of minced meat if you repeatedly throw the meat into the bowl.  

This throwing process is called Da Xian (打馅) in Chinese, which means “beat the filling.” Slamming the meat paste against the bowl will break down the protein and restructure it to develop a springy texture. It also helps to absorb more liquid to make it juicier. The well-beaten meat should eventually become a springy and sticky mass. It also causes the meat to disintegrate partially, which results in meatballs having the feeling of melt in the mouth.

Is there any special treatment for the vegetables? 

If you are dealing with dry vegetables, such as scallion and chives, you only need to chop them coarsely. However, there is a unique treatment if you use cabbage, which has plenty of water. Here is how:

  • Chop the leafy part of the cabbage coarsely. 
  • Chop the stem finely since it is harder. 
  • Add two teaspoons of salt to 250g (8 oz) of chopped cabbage and mix well. 
  • Set aside for 15 minutes. The salt will draw out the water from the cabbage due to osmosis. (Take a look at the video in this article. A lot of water!) 
  • Squeeze out the water from the cabbage before mixing it with the minced meat. Otherwise, it is too wet to form a proper filling. 
  • Don’t forget to adjust the saltiness of the filling! 

I use the pork and chive filling in the recipe below and added an alternative using cabbage and scallion in the note section in the recipe. (I know. Chinese chives may not be readily available at certain places). 

2. How to make the dumpling wrapper 

Making dumpling wrappers is easy as it only requires flour and water. 

But the process is tedious, and therefore many people opt to use the store-bought dumpling wrappers. 

The choice is yours. But even if you decide to use the ready-made dumpling wrappers, it is worth making it at least once. You will notice there are noticeable differences. Homemade wrappers are softer and stickier. It has to be used immediately after rolling into a thin sheet of dough, and it tends to dry out. The dough is stickier and seals well when you pinch and pleating the dumpling. 

On the contrary, the store-bought ones are added with cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. As a  result, you need to wet the peripheral with some water to make it sticky. Otherwise, it will not seal firmly and open up while cooking. 

Here is how to make your dumpling wrappers :

a. Knead the dough 

  • Measure the amount of all-purpose flour and warm water accurately. I use 50 to 53 ml of water for every 100g of flour. It is crucial not to make it too wet because the dumpling skin will become too soft to handle during wrapping. 
  • Mix the water and flour in a large bowl until they start to clump together. 
  • Transfer the loose dough to a work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and shiny. The kneading will take a while, generally between seven to ten minutes. You can use the electric mixer with the dough hook attached to take over the manual work. Stop once it becomes smooth and shiny. 
  • Cover the dough to let it rest for at least two hours. 

b. Divide the dough into small portions 

  • After two hours, transfer the dough to the work surface again. 
  • The dough should have become soft and able to stretch to paper-thin without breaking by now. If it is not, knead for a few minutes, cover, and let it rest for half an hour. 
  • Roll the dough to form the shape of the rolling pin. Divide it into three sections. Work with one section each time and cover the rest in a floured container. 
  • Roll out each section and divide it into ten equal portions. Each portion should weigh between 12 to 14 g. Dust the doughs with flour to prevent them from sticking to the work surface. 

c. Roll the dough into a thin circle 

There is no fixed way to roll out the dough. The goal is to roll it to become a circle, which is ideal for the dumplings. You can watch how I do it in the video for the details. In short, here is how :

  • Flour the work surface heavily so that the dough can freely rotate while rolling it out. 
  • Roll it to become a ball, then flatten it with the palm to turn it into a disc 
  • Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on one side of the disc. Turn the dough slightly after each stroke. The dough will become a round, thin sheet eventually, since I make multiple short, light strokes parallel to the circumference, with a slight turn in between. 
  • Roll out the dough to form a circle with about 6 cm (2.4 in). (Please refer to the video, at 7.10 minutes). 

3. How to wrap the filling 

The major challenge of making Chinese dumplings is how to wrap them neatly so that they look great. Many of us are not experts in wrapping it, including me. 

It is understandable because we do not do this often and naturally do not have the dumping seller’s skill who performs it for a living. 

I find a simple way to wrap it with the minimum skill required after trying a few methods. If I can do it with my clumsy skill, so can you. Here is how:

  • Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.
  • Place a piece of dumpling wrapper on it.
  • Place a tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper.  Be careful so that the peripheral of the wrapper is clear from any filling.
  • Fold the wrapper in half by holding two opposite points of the edges and pinch them together at the meeting point.
  • With the center point secure, press the edges together to get an airtight seal.
  • If you are proficient in doing this, you can try a simple pleading method, as shown in the video.  It is shown from 8.03 minutes to 9.43 minutes.

Note:

  1. Since I visually divide the dough into individual portions, they are not precisely the same size. Therefore, the amount of filling you need may vary, but it should be between 12g to 15g each (about one oz). 
  2. If you use the freshly made dumpling wrapper, it should seal up easily as it is quite sticky.  However, the store-bought wrappers are added with starch to prevent them from sticking together in the packaging.  Therefore, you need to apply some water at the edges to make it sticky before wrapping the filling.
How to make Chinese dumplings.  (The filling, dumpling skin, wrap the dumpling). Also, how to make potstickers 锅贴 and boiled dumplings 水饺.

4. How to cook Chinese dumplings

There are two ways to cook the Chinese dumplings- boiling and pan-frying.  This dumpling recipe is not for steaming.  If you are looking for steamed dumplings,  please check out my shrimp dumpling recipe here.

a. Boiled dumplings (水饺)

I prefer the boiled dumplings as it is the easiest way to cook, and the texture is soft and tender.

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Place the dumplings into the water, one by one, to avoid them from sticking together. It is important not to cook too many dumplings each time to allow sufficient space for the dumplings to move around.
  • Gently push the dumplings around from time to time.
  • After three to four minutes, the dumplings will start to float to the top. Each dumpling will look puffier than before.  At this point, the dumplings are thoroughly cooked.
  • Transfer the dumplings to a bowl immediately to avoid them from overcooking, turning soggy, and potentially falling apart.

b. Pan-fried dumplings (potstickers, 锅贴) 

This method is similar to making the Japanese gyoza.  It is pan-fried on the bottom side and therefore is also called potstickers.  They are crispier and chewier than boiled dumplings. 

  • Add some oil to a frying pan.
  • Arrange the dumplings into the pan.
  • Fill up the pan with water enough to cover half of the dumplings.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and cook it over medium heat.  The steam inside the pan will start to cook the dumplings.
  • Remove the lid when most of the water has evaporated after a few minutes.
  • The oil in the pan will start to pan-fried the bottom of each dumpling.  Do not flip over them as it should be pan-fried on the bottom side only.
  • When the bottom has turned color, remove the potstickers, and serve.

Cook the dumpling immediately or freeze them

The freshly made Chinese dumplings should be cooked as soon as possible, preferably within half an hour. The moisture from the filling will slowly release and seep into the dough, causing it to fall apart during cooking.

If you do not cook them immediately, arrange the dumplings single-layered on a sheet pan and keep them in the freezer. When they are frozen, transfer them to a container as they are no longer sticky. 

You can cook the frozen dumplings directly without defrosting them.

5. How to make the dumpling dipping sauce

Chinese dumplings are usually served with some Chinkiang black vinegar.  Here are three easy ways to make the dipping sauce by adding some simple ingredients to the vinegar.

  1. Add some finely chopped ginger to the vinegar.
  2. Mix one tablespoon of vinegar, one teaspoon of light soy sauce, and half a teaspoon of sesame oil to become a dipping sauce.
  3. Mix one tablespoon of vinegar with a quarter teaspoon of Szechuan chili oil for a spicier version.
Yield: 30 dumplings

Chinese Dumplings - How to make it from scratch

Chinese dumplings thumbnail

Eating Chinese dumplings is a delightful experience. The juice flowing from the filling flows immediately to every corner of your mouth, waking up all the taste buds and sending a euphoric feeling through your senses.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

The wrapper (A)

  • 250g (8.8 oz/ 2.8 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 140ml (0.6 cups) warm water

The filling (pork and chives) (B)

Instructions

The wrapper 

  1. Mix A in a bowl, then transfer to a table and knead for 10 minutes or until the surface is shiny and smooth. Cover and set aside for 2 hours. 
  2. Roll out the dough. Divide it into three equal portions, and then each one is subdivided into ten smaller portions. 
  3. Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten it to become a disc.
  4. Roll each disc into a thin circle. 

The filling 

  1. Mix B together, then slam the mixture into the bowl repeatedly until it becomes a springy paste. 

Wrapping

  1. Wrap a tablespoon of the filing with the wrapper. Please refer to the video for the simple method I use. 

The sauce

  1. Version 1; Add some finely chopped ginger to the vinegar.
  2. Version 2: Mix one tablespoon of vinegar, one teaspoon of light soy sauce, and half a teaspoon of sesame oil. 
  3. Version 3: Mix one tablespoon of vinegar with a quarter teaspoon of Szechuan chili oil. 

Making boiled dumplings 

  1. Place the dumplings into the boiling water over medium heat, one by one. Stir occasionally. 
  2. After three to four minutes, the dumplings will start to float to the top. Transfer the dumplings to a bowl immediately, and serve. 

Making potstickers 

  1. Add some oil to a frying pan.
  2. Arrange the dumplings in the pan.
  3. Fill up the pan with water enough to cover half of the dumplings.
  4. Cover the pan with a lid and cook it over medium heat.  
  5. Remove the lid when most of the water has evaporated after a few minutes.
  6. The oil in the pan will start to pan-fried the bottom of each dumpling.  
  7. When the bottom has turned color, remove and serve.

Notes

Cabbage and scallion filling:

200g Chinese cabbage, 2 tsp salt, 250g pork, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp light soy sauce,
1 tsp Shaoxing wine, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tbsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp minced ginger, 30g chopped scallion, 1 tbsp oil

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

30

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 54Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 49mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 1/18/2021

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Gloria

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Mr KP Kwan, I submitted a request to received "Get The Best Asian Recipes Free!" with my name and email, however I never received an email the download for said recipe book. Is it coming or not if not can you tell me why?

KP Kwan

Wednesday 20th of January 2021

Hi Gloria, I have just sent the book to you manually. Please check your email. It may be due to technical reasons that it did not send through (by an automated sending service). Sorry for the delay. KP Kwan

Marie Ramasamy

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Pot Stickers & Shanghai Noodles are our family favourites. Thank you, Kwan for your easy-to-follow instructions.

KP Kwan

Wednesday 20th of January 2021

You are welcome. Enjoy.

KP Kwan

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

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