Nothing like those floating-on-stew versions. These are delicate morsels of pork and leek wrapped in thin dough “skins” and steamed for the people of Chongqing to eat on their way to another busy working day – and so much healthier than our traditional English fry-up. You can see (https://youtu.be/rTcgbQwDLsw) my very poor efforts to make them despite the help of a dumpling professional.
Wang Yi, our hostess for the day, introduced her aunt, Yinyishu, who has worked in a baozi shop for over 25 years. It is tough work that starts at 3 in the morning as her customers want their breakfast at about 6.00 a.m.
The dough for the Jiaozi dumplings is just flour and water with a pinch of salt while yeast is added for the baozi version. The fillings are very similar: finely minced pork, ginger and lotus root pieces plus leek in the jiaozi and spring onion in the baozi.
The shaping of the dumplings was the difficult part. The risen baozi dough was the most straightforward: small circles of dough rolled thinner all around the edge and then simply folded in half over the filling and pinched closed. But the jiaozi confounded everyone: the same small circles with thinner edges that were somehow rolled and pinched over the middle of the filling while the whole dumpling was rotated in the other hand. They were just too soft and delicate for my sense of touch to decipher. Yinyishu couldn’t stand my ineptitude and finished the lot! Even Julia, from the local Rotary Club who was helping with translation, had difficulty.
And further thanks to Hanying who allowed us all in to her kitchen for the dumpling class. Her apartment is in one of a group of blocks surrounded by expansive lawns and gardens in Chongqing, the largest city in the world. It was a privilege to be in her home and to hear the children playing outside, neighbours chatting on a bench in the sun and the soft buzz of traffic in the distance. Her kitchen was completely familiar in layout and design – every feature I’d recognise from my own but just tiny to match the smaller stature of Chinese people. I felt rather like a giant looming over her and could sit on the work surfaces as if they were high-stools.