Northern Chinese Lamb Dumpling Recipe

These dumplings originate from the Hui minority cuisine. The Hui minority (回族) are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China who live mainly in the Northwestern areas. As eating pork is forbidden in Islam, their cuisine favours lamb and mutton as a meat, which they find warm and nourishing. Unlike a lot of China, their staple food is made from flour instead of rice, and so dumplings bread and noodles are more common. The North of China spans alongside the Siberian desert, which brings long cold winter months. Steaming plates of dumplings are a heartwarming and nourishing remedy for this often bitter and unforgiving time.

We took inspiration from a recipe by wholesome cook and altered it to fit our usual dumpling making process. We really liked the simplicity of her ingredients and the flavours she has used are keeping true to Hui minority cooking.

There is a common view that Chinese cooking is difficult and reserved only for those who are highly skilled. Especially when it comes to dumplings. Our women from the session commented that the most difficult aspect about this recipe was finding all the right ingredients in the shops; half of them they hadn’t heard of. We don’t want this to be an obstacle to creating great dishes. So for this recipe we have added links to pictures of the less common ingredients in this recipe and offered substitutes if you are a bit short on time.

Northern Lamb Dumplings

Makes Approx. 60 dumplings

Jiaozi Dough

500g dumpling flour – we use this one. Available from well-stocked Chinese supermarkets. To be honest, plain white flour will work fine. The difference is that dumpling flour is different in that it is a high gluten flour, making it easier to stretch and mold without clean breaks in the dough.

250 mls approx. warm water

Mix together in a bowl. This dough is the kind that the more you work with it, the better it gets. knead for around 5 minutes before taking it out onto a floured surface and kneading for a further 5+ minutes. Set aside.

Filling

  • 1 kg raw lamb mince (we used halal)
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed and finely chopped
  • half a Chinese cabbageavailable in Chinese supermarkets but savoy cabbage would also work well here too.
  • a thumb of ginger, grated
  • 1 courgette, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • a handful of garlic chives, finely chopped – available in well-stocked Chinese supermarkets. Spring onions work a treat here too. 
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds & 1 tsp coriander seeds – we ground this together with a pestle and mortar for a fresher taste, but feel free to use pre-ground cumin and coriander from any local shop.  
  • 2 tblsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tblsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tblsp sweetented black rice vinegar  – you can get this in any well-stocked Chinese supermarket. Mkare sure it is sweetened or just add a teaspoon of sugar to the mix.
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Mix together in a large bowl. Use your hands. Season heavily. Set aside.

Sauces for dipping 

Although dumplings are for sharing, and are usually served in a pile on a plate, each person will also have their own individual bowl, where they will add dipping sauces.

We like a mixture of: Light soy sauce / sesame oil / Chinese vinegar

All across China there are different ways to have your dumpling sauce. I have seen coriander and chilli added down in the South West of China and crushed garlic up in the North East. Back here in Levenshulme, Manchester we add Gochujiang, a Korean sweet hot pepper paste. It really depends on your taste. I personally have about three different sauce bowls on the go to fuel my condiment addiction! 

Rolling and Folding Jiaozi         

This is great for getting people to work together. We usually set up an assembly line and the dumplings appear much more quickly. Great chance to let your dinner guests join in with the prep and a good time to catch up. You can do this on your own of course; it’s also very relaxing and another way to focus your mind.

Step one: Break the dough into three parts. roll each one into a sausage.

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for each sausage, break into balls. You should get about 20 balls per sausage. Step two: Start rolling the balls out into flat ovals. You want them to be around the size of an apple..

 

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Step three: Add a teaspoon of the filling into the centre of the dough (you can also use chopsticks for a greater experience..) and folds the two ends together, pinching the dough closed. Make sure there are no gaps.

 

Of course this is when you can get creative. We will be posting some dumpling folding videos soon, but for the meantime see what you come up with. Here’s some inspiration from the women of Cheetham hill:

 Boiling Jiaozi

We like to boil the dumplings for a few reasons. First, this is the traditional way they do it up in the North of China. They call them 水饺 shuijiao – literally water boiled dumplings. They taste fresher and are healthier. On a practical level it’s much more convenient if you have leftovers. You can keep them in the fridge easily and fry them up the next day in a little oil.

Boil the dumplings in boiling salt water with a little oil (to stop them from sticking). When the dumplings rise to the surface (usually after about 5 minutes) they are ready to be fished out.

Serve on a big platter.

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