Food and eating are an important part of travelling in every country and China is no exception with such a diversity and richness of so many delicious dishes. A gourmets delight. Of all the Chinese dishes, there is one that stands out for its simplicity, diversity, functionality, popularity and taste. The jiaozi or dumplings as they are known in the west.
Jiazi (see picture below) are crescent shaped and made of ground meat and/or vegetables wrapped in a round thin piece of dough made from flour and water that is then sealed by crimping or pressing the edges of the dough together. Jiaozi can be pan fried but they are normally boiled. I love Chinese food but find that most Chinese dishes have one fault, they use too much oil. Boiled dishes like Jiaozi not only taste delicious, their lack of oil also makes them much healthier.
Once they are prepared, Jiaozi are normally in dishes or eat or more and eaten with a sauce made from a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, chilli, garlic and a peanut like paste I can never remember the name of. Eating Jiaozi with out sauce is like eating a hot dog with out meat. You can do it but it is just wrong.
Jiaozi are often confused with Wonton which is wrong because they are too very different dishes. The dough wrapping for Jiaozi is thicker and chewier with the distinct crescent shape. Wonton on the other hand have a thinner wrapping, have a spherical/ball like shape and are served in a soup.
Jiaozi are so diverse and popular you could be in the mountains of Kunming, at a hole in the wall back ally eatery in Kong Kong’s Mong Kong or at a famous 5 star restaurant in Beijing eating this delicious dish.
With a history dating back to the Song Dynasty around a thousand years ago, Jiaozi are a classic food and an integral part of many customs and traditions such as the Chinese Spring Festival where many families eat them together at midnight. In the north of China on New Years eve, an important custom is for the whole family to prepare Jiaozi by hand for the midnight feast. An experience Jiaozi maker (most Chinese over the age of three) can make well formed attractive looking Jiaozi in 30 seconds. Don’t be fooled though, making Jiaozi is not as easy as you’d think. My most recent experience making Jiaozi with a Chinese family did not go smoothly. My Jiaozi looked horrible and took way too long to make so I was politely invited to leave the kitchen and watch TV.