I have to admit that I have a strong bias towards jiaozi (饺子). Besides Shanghainese soup dumplings (xiaolongbao), my favorite Chinese dumplings are thin-skinned and pan-fried, the kind found mainly in Southern China or New York's $1-for-5 fried dumpling joints. Northern Chinese-style dumplings, which offer more thick doughy skin than filling, just can't compare.
What's better than anything a restaurant or dumpling stall can offer are homemade jiaozi, hot off the skillet. On my last day in Zhongshan my mother and I bought dumpling skins from a lady specializing in doughy things like wrappers and noodles, and spent an hour or two wrapping dumplings for dinner.
Since I have so many photos from that afternoon, I thought I would do a pictoral guide on jiaozi-making. (Often dumpling recipes fail to show the step-by-step process in folding.) Also included is my mother's fool-proof method for getting perfectly crisp pan-fried dumplings without burning them.
Pan-fried Pork and Cabbage Jiaozi, a Recipe in Pictures 猪肉白菜饺子
Makes 50 to 60
Lightly dust your work surface with flour and keep some extra flour within hand's reach.
Dumpling wrappers: When I lived in the US, I always got my wrappers from Chinatown markets (the round kind, labeled for jiaozi（饺子) instead of for wontons (馄饨).). They are a hassle to make at home, but if you really want to give it a try, check out this post from Noodles and Rice.
For the filling, mix together: 1 lb ground pork, 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage, 2 tablespoons minced shallots, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 teaspoons salt or 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a pinch of ground pepper.
Egg wash: Gently beat 1 or 2 eggs.
(The hands shown are Mom's. They are beautifully rough from decades of lovingly cooked meals.)
Folding the dumplings:
1. With a pastry brush or small pastry spatula, spread egg wash around the edge of the wrapper. Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle. (Be careful not to put too much; it'll leek out during the folding process.)
2. Pinch the edge of the wrapper and make a fold like you see in Step 2. (If you're a beginner at folding, place the wrapper on a flat surface while you work. Otherwise, keep it in your hand.)
3. Make 2 more identical folds in the same direction, until you end up with 3 folds, as shown in Step 3.
4. Bring the folded side together with the no-folds side, and press to seal.
5. Line finished dumplings on a plate. Keep extra wrappers covered, preferably with a moist towel, to prevent them from drying out.
6. Pan-frying*: Have about 1/2 cup water, a large skillet, and a lid for the skillet handy. Heat the skillet with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat. Wait about 1 minute for the oil to heat up. (You can also use a small piece of extra dumpling wrapper or bread to test whether the pan is hot enough; it should sizzle immediately upon being placed in the pan.) Once the pan is hot, place the number of dumplings you want to cook smooth side down in the pan. Allow them to sear for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottoms turn golden brown. Add the water, immediately cover with a lid, and let the dumplings steam for another 3 to 4 minutes.
7 . Uncover the lid to allow any extra water to evaporate before turning off the heat. Loosen the dumplings with a spatula (or chopsticks!) and transfer them to a plate. Whatever you don't cook can be frozen for later.
8. Et voilà! Plate them nicely or just pile 'em up family-style. Just make sure to wait a few minutes before digging in or you risk burning your mouth.
Notes: Of course, these jiaozi can also be boiled (水饺 shuíjiǎo). To boil the dumplings instead, bring a pot of water to boil. Add dumplings and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well.
Other snacks and appetizers to try: