Happy jiaozi! Or how to eat yourself to good fortune

It’s time to start preparing for the new year! If you want to celebrate Year of the Goat in (north Chinese) style, you’ll need to eat lots of jiaozi (also known as dumplings). You can of course order at your local Chinese (and don’t forget to wish them Xin nian kuai le!), pick up a bag from the frozen section, but why not make a project out of it and eat the best steaming hot dumplings you have ever tried? Chinese New Years Eve is on February 18. Gongxi Facai!


Jiaozi is a traditional festival dish, loved because the whole family come together and work as a team to make them. Some will prepare the skins, while others fill them with a variety of fillings. The experts will make sure they close properly and doesn’t spill in the boiling water. In the background a TV will be showing a national New Year Gala Show and the kids will wear new, red clothing. The table will be filled with plates, bowls, candy and maybe a pomegranate. The many seeds symbolize many, many babies, something every Chinese family wish for.

So why jiaozi on New Years Eve, other than the communal work effort needed? Jiao is the Chinese name of the period that goes from 11pm to 1am. Simple as that! And of course it helps that both name and shape are like old, Chinese money = good for your economic future!

Unlike other holiday dishes eaten only on certain days, jiaozi can, and should, be eaten all year round, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alone, or as one of many dishes. Homemade, or bought on the streets, straight from the steamers and pans. Or at one of the many jiaozi restaurants, where the whole menu is just the fillings. After having tried a lot of different version, like deer and donkey, I still prefer pork. What will be your favorite?

Here’s how you make them yourself:

Start with 3 cups all-purpose flour, mix in 1/4 teaspoon salt and add as much water you need to make a firm dough, not too wet. It requires a lot of kneading to get it smooth, but it will be worth it. I don’t think it is considered cheating if you buy ready-made wrappings in any of the Asian stores.

Meat filling for dumplings

Let the dough rest while you make the filling. Basically you can use whatever ingredients you like. Most common is probably pork and cilantro (or maybe it’s just my favorite, so I order this always), but you can use any type of minced meat, with finely chopped vegetables. Add shredded ginger, garlic, spring onion, a little sesame oil, Chinese vinegar and salt and mix together. It should be a little bit slimy. Or just use vegetables, like spinach and scrambled egg. Divide the dough ball into 60 pieces that you shape and flatten to circles about 3-inches in diameter. Put a small tbsp of filling on each, fold and use water to glue the edges together, and pinch. No, they will not look as pretty as the one you buy, but will taste a lot better! There should be plenty of videos on YouTube showing you how to do this.

Asian dumpling

Boil a large pot of water and add half of the dumplings, make sure they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Wait until it boils again and add another half cup cold water. Boil again. Third time they boil, they are ready. Drain and eat!

Dip them in a mix of soy sauce and Chinese vinegar, add a drop of sesame oil and chili if you like. The first to drop the slippery jiaozi into the bowl of dipping sauce so that it splashes everywhere, must do the dishes afterwards.

Leftovers can be fried in a pan, that tastes yummy too!

Let me know how it goes! Enjoy!


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Christine Surlien

Christine has studied Chinese culture and language extensively. She has spent two years at The People’s University of China in Beijing, done five years of Chinese studies at the University of Oslo, and has her masters degree from Hong Kong University. She has been associated with KinaReiser, Norway’s leading agency for travel to the The Far East, for a decade. She was also employed at the administration of the Norwegian Embassy to China for two years, before relocating to Washington DC with her diplomat husband and their two children.

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  2. I love dumplings. Great instructions and pictures. Can’t wait to make this. The one thing that stops me is that they will not be pretty but I will give it a try and get it over that.

    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and most importantly: They will taste good! And bought cake always look better than the homemade, but which one tastes better? We know the answer to that! Good luck, and with a little practice they will come out beautiful!

  3. This is great! I love these and buy them in the frozen section here in Oklahoma. We actually had some the past Christmas Eve along with a lot of other assorted snack items. We really enjoy these, I’m not sure why! Thanks for sharing the recipe, I’d love to try it some time 🙂

    1. You enjoy them because they are perfect comfort food! Warm, soft and yummy 🙂

  4. I’ve never had this dish, but it really does sound delicious. I’m going to need to give this one a try very soon. Thank you so much Christine for sharing. Love the variety! 🙂

    1. Hope you enjoy both making them and eating them 🙂

  5. The rule for the first one who splashes the sauce has dish duty is pretty great too!

    1. It WILL happen, no matter how good you work those chopsticks!

  6. This sounds really tasty and versatile. I also like how it inspires togetherness and teamwork. It seems like a great way to get the family to work together with a delicious outcome! Thank you for sharing this!

  7. Never been much of a cook (even though that is my last name), but this looks delicious. IF anyone is close to me and is going to be doing this recipe, hit me up for a good laugh while we taste. Happy New Year of the Horse!

    1. Happy new Horse Year to you too! And I am sure you’ll have a prosperous future, even if you buy them frozen or at a restaurant 😉

    1. … This is awesome! It looks super easy and so much fun. I’m going to try this. And I WILL be buying premade dough. 🙂

      1. Buying the dough is a good start, and it will still taste homemade 🙂

  8. I would love to make this with my daughter!

    Thank you for the recipe and language lesson!

    1. Good luck, and if you come up with your own delicious filling, let us know!

  9. Definitely going to give this a try Christine! I never liked the texture of the boiled dumplings, but do like the fried ones! One of our goals for the year is to try new recipes, so I’m glad you’ve shared this one. I didn’t know that is was a simple as flour, water, salt + kneading + stuffing.

    1. At least it looks simple when the professionals do it! With some practice it should be possible, though. Glad to be of inspiration, and I agree, crispy dumplings (guotie in Chinese) are delicious!

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