Ah yes, unabashed dumpling porn. But seriously folks, this dumpling (jiaozi 饺子) is nothing short of awesome – our instant addiction made clear why a friend dubbed it nothing less than “crack jiaozi.” Not only does this little nugget taste fantastic, the red-cabbage-stained purple wrapper makes it nearly as lovely to look at as to eat. Unlike other parts of China, Beijing dumplings are typified by an astounding variety of fillings beyond the common shrimp-pork-cabbage combo. Most restaurants serving dumplings will have dozens of fillings available, including tomato-and-egg, the Muslim-influenced lamb-and-cilantro, eggplant-and-egg, zucchini-and-egg, preserved vegetable-and-green beans, peanut-bacon-and-green pepper (another favorite), and so forth.
This recipe is a recreation of the house specialty dumpling from Baoyuan Jiaozi Guan (宝源饺子屋) one of the best dumpling restaurants in Beijing (we think so at least). The dumpling wrappers at this place are chewy, not flabby and overcooked, and dyed shocking orange, green, and purple using vegetable extracts. But the real reason Baoyuan stands out is due to their exceptionally creative fillings. Guoba (锅巴), or crispy rice , is the slightly burned rice crusted to the bottom of a ceramic pot after cooking rice. It's prized for its toasty flavors and crackly texture; Koreans and Japanese have also found ways to utilize (and love!) this cooking “mistake.” Would anyone dare disagree the best part of bibimbop is scraping up the crusty bottom?
This rice is the secret to this recipe – it combines the crispy rice with brightly purple-hued red cabbage, a toss of bean sprouts to lighten the filling and salty ground pork to add a burst of savory tang. Even the skins are dyed purple to match the red cabbage, creating visual harmony which only makes these jiaozi that much more joyful an experience. And many thanks to a friend, who named and introduced us to the crack dumpling.
The combination of guoba, cabbage and pork is a taste explosion so wonderful that we even submitted our re-creation to a Food52.com dumpling contest. We didn't win, but damn it, we should have! (Again, at least we think so. Though to be fair we got an honorable mention.) For those of you who don't have access to Baoyuan, we beg you, try this recipe. Rice Krispies enveloped in purple splendor! How can it fail to please?
Makes at least 40, depending on the size of your wrappers. Also, the dumpling cooking method is important for chewy, pliant skins.
Making the Filling:
* 1.5 ounces ground fatty pork
* 1 splash Chinese cooking wine, such as Shaoxing
* 2 teaspoons soy sauce
* 1 pinch salt
* 1 clove minced garlic
* 1 splash sesame oil
* 1 large pinch salt
* 1 cup finely chopped red cabbage
* 1/4 cup finely chopped bean sprouts
* 1 cup cooked short-grain rice (leftover rice that's cold and a bit dryer is best)
* 1 cup frying oil, such as grapeseed or peanut
1. Chop up the red cabbage and bean sprouts into tiny pieces – between the size of a piece of rice and a pea. Sprinkle the red cabbage with two healthy pinches of salt. Mix well and let sit while preparing the rest; when ready to mix together, squeeze out any excess water from the cabbage.
2. Mix the pork, cooking wine, soy sauce, salt, and garlic together. Let marinade while frying the rice.
3. To create the crispy rice, it needs to be deep-fried. Heat the oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. The oil is ready when you touch a wooden chopstick to the bottom of the pan and a steady, neither too slow nor too fast, stream of bubbles emerges from the bottom of the chopstick. Break up the rice into individual grains as much as possible and add it to the frying pan in a single layer. Here is
a *great* time to use your splatter screen, as the rice will pop and oil will splatter around, so be careful. Gently move the rice around so it cooks evenly. When the bottom layer is a light yellow brown (about 1 minute), flip the rice and fry until golden brown (about 30 more seconds). Remove and drain on a paper towel. If using a small pan, you may have to do this in two batches.
4. When the rice is cool enough to handle, crumble the rice again into individual grains (again, as much as possible).
6. Mix with the cabbage, sprouts, and pork . This filling will be quite loose (unlike most meat-heavy dumpling fillings). Mix very well to make sure the meat is dispersed evenly throughout the filling. It's now ready to wrap!
Making the Dumplings
There are many recipes for dumpling skins out there, debates on cold v. hot water, etc. These are boiled dumplings, so the delicacy of the skins matters far less than with Cantonese steamed dumplings – the important thing here is the PURPLE. This, we made using natural dye from some of the red cabbage.
Recipe for Wrappers
* 2 cups flour
* 1 cup water
* 4-5 leaves of red cabbage (or more)
* A few drops white vinegar
1. How do you get purple dumplings? Simple as boiling some cabbage. Take a few leaves from the head of cabbage (about 5 leaves), rip them into 3 or 4 pieces, and just boil them for about 15-20 minutes. The color will start to drain out into the water, turning it… blue. Yes, red cabbage dye starts out BLUE. After most of the color is boiled away, let it reduce a little bit – only about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water is needed for the dumplings, and you need to reduce it to concentrate the color.
2. The magic part is this – to get it to turn purple, add the 2 drop of vinegar. The acid will immediate turn the indigo into a rich happy purple to match the cabbage. (Why do they call it “red” cabbage then, when blues and purples are all you get out of it? Who knows. If you do however, we'd love to know.)
3. Use this dyed water to make the wrappers. For instructions on making the wrappers, follow the more detailed recipe here on Chowhound. We really can't say anything more on skins and wrapping dumplings than haven't been said more anally somewhere else, so we're citing to better cooks than us.
4. To wrap dumplings, first moisten the edges of one side of the wrapper by dipping your finger in water and running it around the edge. Put in about a generous amount of filling (approximately a heaping teaspoon, but it will depend on your wrapper). Leave about 1/4 inch around the rim, so you can squeeze the wrapper tightly closed. Pleat the wrapper to make more attractive dumplings by by folding a little of wrapper back on itself and pinching together. Make sure the whole dumpling is sealed, if it is not sealing, moisten with more water or press harder. For a step-by-step photo blog explaining the wrapping process much better than we could, see this recipe from userealbutter.com
5. To cook dumplings, add water to a deep pot, to about halfway. Bring the water to a boil. Add dumplings (about 8-10 at a time – don't overcrowd the pot). When the water boils again, add about a cup of water (this amount will vary depending on how many dumplings you are cooking and the amount of water in the pan. The goal is to cool down the water enough to stop it from cooking the skins through before the insides are done). Let the water come to a boil again, and then add another cup of water. The dumplings are done when the water comes to a boil for the second time.
(Note: given the guoba's crispiness is key, this dumpling – unlike others – doesn't taste as good after it's been frozen/refrigerated. Make and eat the same day.)
And voila, glorious purple dumplings of joy. Douse with some black vinegar, or a touch of chili oil, and crunch away.