≡ Menu
Vagabond Journey

Chinese Dumplings – Jiaozi – Great Food from China

Simply put, a dumpling is a cooked ball of dough. But I must be straight when I say that if someone plopped a ball of boiled dough in front of me I would be hard pressed to call it a dumpling. It’s a good thing that most dumplings are stuffed with minced meat, seafood, vegetables, [...]

Simply put, a dumpling is a cooked ball of dough. But I must be straight when I say that if someone plopped a ball of boiled dough in front of me I would be hard pressed to call it a dumpling. It’s a good thing that most dumplings are stuffed with minced meat, seafood, vegetables, or miscellaneous sweet stuff.

In China, dumplings — called Jiǎozi — are cooked every which way: being boiled, fried, steamed, simmered, and even baked; served on their own to be dipped into various sauces or included in soups. They are more popular in the northern regions of the country, but can be found nearly everywhere, and tend to be a traveler’s default food when they don’t feel up for a culinary adventure.

The Chinese New Year celebration can often turn into a dumpling extravaganza, as it’s felt that due to the ascetic similarity between jiaozi and the golden ingots that were used for money in the Ming dynasty eating them brings prosperity in the coming year. Or perhaps this is just an excuse to pig out on dumplings.

I like dumplings for the same reason as just about anyone else: they have a baseline, though delicious taste, they are readily available (often being sold in the street), fast to order, and are incredibly cheap. In China, jiaozi generally sell for less than 1 yuan (16 cents) each, and an entire mountain of them can be had for a couple of dollars.

Chinese dumplings

There are three main types of Chinese dumplings

Shuǐjiǎo

Shuǐjiǎo, which literally means water dumpling, are simply jiaozi that are boiled.

Guōtiē

Literally meaning “pan stick,” guōtiē are typical jiaozi which are also fried. Known as potstickers in North America, they are made by taking steamed jiaoza and tossing them in a wok or cast iron pan full of oil to be fried. This creates jiaozi with a duel texture: the tops are soft and wet and the bottoms are fried to a crisp. A short cut way to make guotie is to toss uncooked jiaozi into a covered wok with a layer of water and in it. The bottoms of the jioaza are then fried while the tops are steamed — again creating guotie with its characteristic textural duality.

Zhēngjiǎo

This is what steamed jiaozi are typically called in China. They are usually steamed in a covered bamboo rack that is positioned over a wok full of boiling water.

Jiaozi are often prepared in the morning and then served throughout the day. They are a polymorphous food that can be part of a breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and there are entire restaurants that pretty much serve nothing else.

Dumplings are also truly an international food, and are native to just about all parts of the world — from Africa to the British Isles to Eastern Europe to the Middle East to India to East Asia to the Caribbean. I’ve yet to meet a person who did not like dumplings: they seem to be a part of the culinary tradition of the human species.

Making jiaozi is also a socially acceptable way to get a potential romantic partner into your living quarters in China, and this was once a typical way for young couples to begin dating.

Chinese dumpling video

Filed under: China, Food

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment