Thursday, August 20, 2020

China: The Delectable Dumpling

Dumplings are better than flowers.   --Japanese proverb

           Nothing is tastier than a dumpling.  --Chinese saying

Dumplings, the festive food of the north of China are the mainstay of every table here. In the south, rice and noodles are more prevalent than dumplings. But in the north of China, the dumpling rules. Basically, there are about seven different kinds of dumplings, and they are divided into two categories--the dainty potsticker variety, which can be boiled, steamed, or fried, and then the bun-like variety that has a breaded covering. My own preference is the jiaozi:"--the potsticker variety. Perhaps it is because some of my favorite memories in both China and Taiwan have been at friends' homes preparing the delectable dumpling.

It is said that it was 1,800 years ago that the first dumpling was made in China by Zhang Zhongjing. He was a doctor and saw many people with frostbite so he decided to make a dinner to take to his patients so they would not be cold anymore--to bring in the new year. 

Dumplings are made from pork, chive, or fennel--often with cabbage, celery, or carrots. They are mixed sometimes with shrimp, beef, eggs, and mushrooms--just endless varieties. One restaurant here in Tianjin boasts of having 100 kinds of fillings in their dumplings. Here in the north, they are served with vinegar, fried red pepper, soy sauce, and often a clove of garlic. 

We found the most wonderful restaurant with jaudze (potsticker or dumpling that is steamed, fried, or boiled. (My personal preference is steamed).  They also had baudze (bread-like dumplings). Message me if you live in Tianjin--just an ordinary-looking "nosedive" little restaurant near the Haihe River... But they know how to make a dumpling!!!

                      If you happen to be in Tianjin, China, this is the best place we have found--bar                           none. It is not a fancy place. Some people might think it a dive, but it is my                                favorite. 

At our favorite little place where they steam the dumplings in small baskets.

Delivering them to our table--about nine in each basket. 

The best dumplings, however, are when you get invited to someone's house. And then you find out their personal family secrets and ways to make their own kind of dumpling.

Some of my most special memories of being in Asia have been when friends invite you to their homes. The hostess and guest's roles merge and blur--you are just good friends making your dinner together. 

Our first invitation to make dumplings when we first arrived to Tianjin. Somehow that first invitation to rub shoulders together, and roll and fill dumplings made me feel more welcome to my new city. It is a grand treat to be invited to make dumplings together. Never underestimate a dumpling invitation!

Many kids, both boys, and girls are trained early on how to make a sumptuous dumpling.

How to make a dumpling


 Get the filling ready


Roll the dough and cut into small cookie-like slices, and then flatten them, making them almost transparently thin. 


Put filling in, about the size of a small teaspoon. 


Fill the dumpling, and then pinch them on the sides, and then on the fold, making a little crescent moon.


This is the beginning of the memory-making--gathering around to fill the dumplings with loved ones. 


You can steam, fry, or boil the dumplings.  

Restaurants in Northern China: The Focus is on the Dumpling

At a restaurant in Tianjin. The steamers are then given to each table.

The special dim sum dumpling that was supposedly invented outside of Shanghai--existing of 23 "pleats" in a very thin whole wheat wrapper. It has a little bit of a fragrant soup that stays in a puddle in the dumpling and then explodes in your mouth. 

Dim sum has a plethora of fillings--mutton, pork, chicken, and seafood. 

More dim sums...

                               These dim sum had a chocolate filling. I had never tried that before. 

And sometimes, you are lucky enough to have friends who just bring you dumplings!

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