For the past month, my kitchen turned into a jiaozi testing kitchen as I tried, tested and tweaked jiaozi recipes in search for the PERFECT recipe to celebrate with on the Lunar New Years. Jiaozi, or classic Chinese dumplings, is one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and serving them is believed to bring prosperity. From his memorie, Mao's Last Dancer, I like to recall the image of the ballet dancer Li Cunxin eating plates of jiaozi with his family on midnight of the Lunar New Year in their small house with dirt floors. An entire meal of dumplings surrounded by loving family sounds like the perfect way to start the new year.
As each family has its own recipe for making jiaozi, there are potentially millions of recipes out there, with the cooking technique varying from boiled to steamed to fried, and the fillings ranging from pork (traditional) to seitan (modern) and even a desert jiaozi filled with ganache chocolate. Mmm. The better news is that the ingredients are not complicated and are easy to find, especially if you decide to tackle making the wrappers yourself instead of buying store bought wrappers (and I encourage this, since store bought wrappers are about 50% less delicious than homemade wrappers).
And so, in no particular order, the best porc, vegetarian, and dessert jiaozi recipes!
Pork Dumplings from Epicurious. This may have been one of the first recipes I tried, and I recommend tweaking the sauce by adding a bit of chili paste for those who prefer a bit of spice!
Sweet Potato Recipe from Food. I probably couldn't eat more then six or seven of these, but the novelty of sweet potatoes compared to traditional vegetarian jiaozi will impress your guests. The fresh cilantro is also delicious so even if it is a bit pricey buying fresh cilantro in February do not omit the cilantro!
Fresh Mango Dumplings by Wholesome Cook. Drool, drool, drool. I am drooling just thinking about these delicious dumplings, and both the steamed and baked ones equally worthy of being on your Lunar New Year's table. Although I was tempted to post the chocolate jiaozi recipe, the mango recipe is fresh and light.