There are few Chinese foods more iconic or comforting than the dumpling. Dumplings have many shapes and are stuffed in a variety of fillings, from traditional minced pork, leeks, or shrimp to modern kimchi, tofu, and sweet potato. Historical records show that the Chinese have eaten dumplings at least since the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and many trace their origins back to much earlier periods. Spread by the Chinese diaspora, dumplings can now be found worldwide.
What Are Dumplings?
A dumpling is a piece of dough wrapped around a filling like meat, cheese, or vegetables and then baked, boiled, steamed, or fried. Examples of dumplings include empanadas, gnocchi, gyoza, and pierogi.
What Are Chinese Dumplings?
Chinese dumplings are defined by their wrappers and preparation. Chinese dumplings feature flour wrappings with savory, sweet, or spicy fillings that are steamed (蒸餃, zhēng jiǎo), boiled (水餃, shuǐjiǎo) or seared (鍋貼, guōtiē).
There are several kinds of Chinese dumplings:
Jiaozi (餃子, jiǎozi) are crescent-shaped dumplings filled with stuffing and wrapped in rounded dough that’s thicker than wontons.
Wonton (餛飩, húntún) are shaped like right triangles and typically served in soup or fried.
Guotie (鍋貼, guōtiē) or “Potstickers” are seared in a small amount of oil in a wok or flat grill. A small amount of water is added, before they are covered, steaming them on top while frying the bottoms.
From the dumpling, which wouldn’t get its name until sometime around the 1600s, came other Chinese filled-dough dishes. The potsticker is rumored to have been invented by a cook who left his dumplings over the fire for too long. Others believe it was Zhang Zhong-jing (張仲景), a doctor in the Eastern Han period, who created jiaozi to treat typhoid and frostbitten ears.
It's a classic New Year tradition for families in China to stuff dumplings while watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. The shape resembles ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots, which symbolized wealth. They are eaten starting at midnight and throughout the two-week holiday. Similar to Mardi Gras revelers hiding a plastic baby Jesus in a King Cake, some families hide a gold coin in a dumpling. The person who gets the dumpling with the shiny prize inside is believed to have good fortune in the coming year. Dumplings are also the traditional meal for giving friends a send off.
What Is the Difference between Baozi and Dumplings?
Baozi and dumplings come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties and are each distinct.
Baozi are steamed buns made with yeast and filled with meat or veggies. The dough first rises, then is rolled and cut into pieces, and finally rolled into balls and flattened. Baozi are stuffed, folded into pleats, and then pinched and twisted forming a small knot to seal the bun closed. Arguably, the most famous baozi is soup dumplings (小龍包, xiǎo lóng bāo).
Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮), a scholar and military strategist during the Three Kingdoms Period, invented baozi when his troops caught the plague during an expedition. He made a bun shaped like a human head from flour, pork and beef, offered it as a sacrifice to the gods, and gave it to the soldiers to cure them, according to legend.
Dumplings have thin, translucent dough wrappers and are stuffed with a variety of fillings like ground pork and chives, pork and leeks, and vegetables with scrambled egg. Dumplings can be baked, steamed, boiled, or fried, and each provides a unique and excellent flavor all its own.
How to Make Dumplings
Dumpling making is an art, and it's so much fun. Making dumplings is a great way to gather with loved ones to cook and enjoy classic flavors together. Mix and match your favorite sauces and oils from our shop.
The options for dumpling fillings are endless, but the recipe for making dumpling wrappers typically includes the following ingredients:
Pork, beef, chicken, or shrimp and/or vegetables like cabbage and leeks
First, dumpling fillings are made. Then, flour wrappers are made by kneading water and flour together to make dough. The dough is rolled, cut in pieces, and then flatten into palm-size pancakes either with a rolling stick or by hand. Next, a spoonful of filling is placed in the dough’s center, the pancake is folded in half into a moon shape for jiaozi or gathered to form
pouches for wontons, and sealed by pinching and pressing the edges together. Finally, the dumplings are cooked: jiaozi and wontons are boiled in clear water, and guotie are boiled and then pan-fried in a small amount of oil creating a golden, crispy bottom.
Jiaozi and guotie are accompanied with dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and slivers of ginger. Wontons are served in or with soup.
Tips for Making Dumplings at Home
No matter what kind of dumplings you’re making, there are a few cooking tips you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure they turn out perfect every time.
Don’t Let Your Wrappers Dry Out: If your dumpling wrappers become too dry, it can be difficult to fold them over your filling, and they can break during cooking. A simple way to ensure they don’t get too dry is to keep a slightly dampened paper towel over them while you fold.
Learn your Folds: There are so many different dumpling folding techniques, and some are a lot more complex than others. Start simple and begin working your way up. Even simple dumpling folds look beautiful and enticing on the plate. Taking your time and being patient will ensure the dumplings are cooked sufficiently and that the fillings taste great.
Don’t Overfill: There’s nothing wrong with having a little leftover filling, right? The problem with overfilling your dumplings, besides the obvious risk of breakage, is that they can dry out too quickly. Dumplings are all about balance in flavor, texture, and moisture. With too much filling to cook, the moisture gets all used up, and your delicious flavors might come out dry. Play around with ratios to find a good fit.
Remember Your Wrapper: There are so many different types of dumpling wrappers and meals that fall under the dumpling umbrella, and each wrapper has a different use. The thinness or thickness of the wrapper will both determine how you cook your dumpling and even what kind of filling you use. Check your recipe and do your research to make sure the filling, preparation method, and wrapper are a good fit.
Have Fun: It’s okay if you don’t get your dumplings perfect the first time around. Dumplings take practice, and even seasoned chefs will still buy pre-made wrappers when they’re in a crunch. Take the pressure off, invite your friends and family over to help you fold, and enjoy a warming and delicious dish made from the heart.
When it comes to the best dumplings recipe, your options are endless. Find delicious vegetables in season or mix up a meat-filled version for dinner at home with loved ones. You can also buy pre-made dumplings to have dinner in minutes. Here are a few amazing dumpling recipes that are sure to steer you right every time.
Sweet Potato, Pork, and Chili Crisp Dumpling
Not only are these sweet potato, pork, and chili crisp dumplings absolutely delicious, but they look lovely on the plate, as well. Combine sweet, savory, and spicy flavors in a two-tone dough pocket for a beautiful treat that tastes even better than it appears.
For the Dough:
Red bell peppers (4)
For the Fillings:
Pork (1 lb)
Sweet potatoes (5 small to medium)
Step One: Chop the bell peppers and cook on medium heat with olive oil for ~10 minutes until soft, taking care not to burn them. One softened, blend them, then return to heat until it begins to thicken into a paste. Set aside.
Step Two: Make the dough by mixing two cups of flour and ¾ cup of boiling water together and then incorporating the rest by hand. After about 10 minutes, it should become smooth and uniform. If it bounces back when you touch it, wrap it in plastic and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.
Step Three: For the second dough, repeat step two and add 2 tablespoons of your red pepper paste.
Step Four: Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and heat the sweet potatoes for 45 minutes or until soft and cooked through. Remember to poke holes in them before baking! Once cooked, cut them in half and scoop out the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Save the skins for another dish or discard.
Step Five: Make your filling by mixing the ingredients together well. Set aside.
Step Six: Make your wrappers by rolling out the dough into cylindrical shapes and cutting them into one-inch pieces, which you will then flatten with your hand. For the two-tone dough, cut each white and orange wrapper in half and attach them together with a dab of water.
Step Seven: Fill your dumpling with your pork and sweet potato mixture and then slowly begin closing it by squeezing the folds together in a “w” shape until it resembles a sealed teardrop.
Step Eight: Fry your dumplings in oil for 1-2 minutes on medium heat, then place 1/2 to 1 cup of water into the pan and steam for about six minutes. Serve with your favorite sauces from Fly By Jing, like Sichuan Chili Crisp.
Zhong dumplings might be a little more straightforward than the two-tone sweet potato dumplings, but they’re guaranteed to be a family favorite from the very first bite. They come from Chengdu, China and combine all the best flavors of pork, garlic, and sesame for a truly unforgettable eating experience.
Ground pork (1 lb)
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp cooking wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
½ cup of water
Scallion greens, sliced
Step One: Mix your ingredients together. Use your hands to ensure they’re fully incorporated.
Step Two: Add a spoonful of filling to each wrapper. Fold and seal each dumpling.
Step Three: Bring salted water to a boil. Pour dumplings into the boiling water (stirring with a spoon or spatula to keep them from sticking to the pot). Once they begin floating, wait another 15 seconds, then remove.
Step Four: Serve with our Zhong dumpling sauce.