Chinese Water Dumplings (shui jiao/jiaozi)

September 6, 2007 § 4 Comments

I had planned to do a write up on Chinese water dumplings (shui jiao) with pictures of the preparation the last time I made them but I ran out of time and didn’t take pictures. But here is the recipe I use that’s a modified version of my Grandmother’s recipe. As a child, this was a whole day event at my grandparents’ home to feed 14-17 people. There were usually 2-3 people making the peels and 2-3 people making the dumplings (jiaozi). It was a tradition for Chinese New Year.

I don’t make my own peels anymore. Takes way too much time to make the amount needed for the large batches I make. I use premade gyoza wrappers. There are several different brands you can get at an Asian food market. I prefer the Chinese brands because they taste more similar to my Grandmother’s. Maybe types of wrappers will be another write up someday. Just note that this is another one of those “to taste” type recipes. I normally use 2 lb of ground pork but taking into consideration that most people wouldn’t make that much, I’ve tried to modify the recipe for smaller portions.

Oh yeah, one more comment about my Grandmother’s recipe and how I ended up with my own recipe. My Grandmother didn’t have measurements. She went with the nose. She would throw the ingredients together and let the smell of the filling determine the adjustments she needed. So when it came time for me to make it on my own, I had to remember all the things she (and Mom) did and remembering the smell. The meat is the only thing that’s measured out. I eyeball everything else. It’s really hard for me to describe this process. I started to help make the dumplings since I was four so knowing the perfect filling smell is second nature. The only thing I can say is that the filling smells savory. So, I would recommend smelling your filling and if it turns out perfect for you, stick with what you put in and remember that smell. That will help you fine tune the ingredients the next go around.


1 package of your favorite dumplings or gyoza wrappers

1/2 lb ground pork
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 scallion (green onion), finely minced
1 egg
1 cup very finely chopped Napa cabbage, squeeze to remove excess water
1 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry (optional)

2 Tbsp water (for sealing the wrappers)

Dipping Sauce:
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced (optional)
Asian chili paste (optional)


Just a quick note: I prefer an equal portion of cabbage to meat but the Mister likes more meat. You can adjust the amount of cabbage to taste. This recipe should make ~40-50 dumplings, depending on how much meat you put in each wrapper.

If the wrappers are frozen, let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight. This will prevent them from getting all soggy and sticky.

Combine filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place about 1 Tbsp filling in the middle of a wrapper. I use just a tad less. Don’t overfill it or else you risk the dumplings bursting when boiling (not a pretty thing).

Dip your finger in the water and trace around the edge of half the wrapper. Fold in half, forming a crescent shape, and press firmly to seal. Repeat for remaining dumplings. If you have trouble sealing the wrapper, you can mix an egg with the water to get a better seal.

Bring a large pot filled about 3/4 with water to a boil. Keeping the water at high heat, slowly put in about 15 dumplings into the pot, stirring to make sure the dumplings don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. If the water starts to foam over, you can add 1/2 cup of cold water or turn down the heat to med/hi. But make sure the water still has a small roll. After about 4 minutes, the dumplings will start to float up and the peels become translucent with meat sticking to wrapper. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all the dumplings are cooked. Mix dipping sauce ingredients together. Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Some things to consider:
After removing the dumplings from the pot, I always put them on a large plate in single layer because once they start cooling, they have a tendency to stick together, especially those premade wrappers. Also, if you use ground pork, make sure the filling is cooked all the way through. I always make the dumplings with pork because that tastes the best to me. I have tried ground turkey (too dry) and ground beef (not savory enough) but I figure if I’m going to spend all that time making it, I want it to taste good.

The filling can really be anything you want. My mom used to like to switch it up a bit and add dried shrimp or chives. Sometimes she might even add rice noodles. You also have the option of steaming or pan frying the dumplings rather than boiling.

The reason why I make so much at once is because the Mister and I love leftovers. If you do have leftovers, you can store them in an air tight container for up to 5 days. There are a couple of options to reheat leftovers. Usually, I will make pot stickers and pan fry them but they also microwave up pretty nicely. Don’t heat them up too long in the microwave unless you like dry and crunchy wraps. You can also put a damp paper towel over the dumplings when you nuke them to prevent drying. I don’t like to reboil them because it makes the wrappers really slick and sticky and it just doesn’t taste right. Again, serve hot with dipping sauce.

Let me know how these turn out. Send me an email if you have any problems or questions on how to make them. Now go and eat well.


§ 4 Responses to Chinese Water Dumplings (shui jiao/jiaozi)

  • KirkK says:

    Mmmmm Jiaozhi… MIL makes a few hundred by hand whenever she comes to visit. I will usually make the filling…”by nose”. We also get a pot of water boiling and make a test dumpling.

  • CAB says:

    Hey Sensei! I bet your MIL’s dumplings are delici-yoso! I think if anyone would understand the nose thing, it would be you. 🙂 Does your MIL make wonton soup also? My wonton filling is much simpler, ground pork (about 1/2 lb), minced scallions, salt, white pepper, sesame oil, and 1 egg. But it’s still too hot for wonton soup.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the recipe for the dumplings. I love homemade gyozas. They are much better than the frozen kind. –JB

  • CAB says:

    Hi JB, I’ve had some frozen gyozas that were pretty good but homemade is definitely the way to go if you have time.

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