So, here's how to make the standard dish of Northern China. My delightful assistants (and one I call the dumpling master) are students at the Chinese university I teach at.
We made both these mixtures and ended up with over 100 dumplings. The 4 of us stuffed ourselves for lunch and another student and I will polish them off for dinner. Somehow 4 of us cooked all this in a Chinese university apartment kitchen. Mushroom and cabbage filling
(I made this one because I am vegetarian)
A pile of mushrooms, diced finely or put through the food processor, about 4 cups diced so you need a generous amount
About 1/3 large Chinese cabbage, diced very finely or put through the food processor
1-2 tbs ginger grated finely
splash of soy sauce (about 1-2 tbs I suppose)
1/2 packet of dumpling seasoning mix (Asian grocer - or substitute with powdered spices and whatever to your liking, about 2 tbs in total)
You can use heaps of different fillings with cabbage being the key binding ingredient. Other than that you have a pretty free choice on veg/egg/other fillings)
Wash and dice the ingredients. Take small handfuls of cabbage and squeeze if firmly between your hands to get the excess water out from when you washed it. This is important as the water makes the dunplings burst open. Also squeeze out the mushrooms. Mix all the ingredients for the stuffings together in large bowls.
Take your dumpling skins (see below) and begin to stuff them. You need to have dry hands and a dry, floured board to put them on.
First put a dumpling skin on the fingers of your non-writing hand. Cup your hand a little. Put a small amount of filling in the dumpling, about 1 heaped teaspoon. You will get a feel for the amount you need as you are making them.
Next bring the two edges closest and furtherest from your body together. Squeeze the edge tightly.
Next put the two halves of the dumplings between your thumbs and forefingers. Squeeze tightly again, making sure you squeeze right to the edge.
Da-da! A dumpling.Fancy-pants version.
Squeeze the top together and then make little pleats in the side which faces away from you. Squeeze each pleat nice and tightly. Each side should have 4 pleats.
You can also gather around the edges like a drawstring bag to make round ones
Or, sandwich some filling between 2 skins and squeeze all the way around the edges.
Next you need to put them in a pot of rapidly boiling water. Put the lid back on and boil them. Check after agout 5 minutes. They are done when, as the student put it, they have big, puffy, fat bellies.
The meat ones take longer than the veggie ones.Dipping Sauce
Take about 6 cloves of garlic (Chinese garlic is not strong flavoured) and smash them up in the mortar and pestle or chop them finely. Also heat some oil and pour it over dried chillies - it smells great.
Each person should have a small bowl. In this bowl they put as much garlic and chillies as they like then top it all with vinegar. The dark vinegar is better, but white is ok too. Dip the dumplings into the sauce and eat. Mmmmm
You can freeze uncooked dumplings and then put them into bags to eat later. I've heard you can keep them several months, but I don't believe in having dumplings in the house. I feel it is my duty to eat them! Dumpling skins:
I buy fresh premade ones from the noodle shop around the corner. Most of you won't have that luxury, but you can probably buy the skins in an Asian grocer or supermarket. If that fails, why not make your own?
A recipe I found online at rom http://brooklynmasalanyc.blogspot.com/2008/02/dumpling-skin-recipe.html
Ingredients (enough for over forty dumplings)
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
Put the flour in a large bowl and place under the faucet. Mix the flour in a swirling motion and turn the faucet to barely a steady stream. Stir until all the flour has formed into nubs the size of peanuts. Turn off the water and work the dough into a large ball, turning constantly. The dough should be slightly tacky without any dough actually sticking to your hands. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let sit anywhere from two to four hours. It's important to let the dough relax or you'll end up with a tough dough that keeps shrinking on itself when you try to roll it out.
Break the dough into four pieces. Work one piece at a time and keep the others covered with a wet towel. Roll or stretch out the piece of dough into a rope, then cut the rope into sections--I like to use scissors. It doesn't matter how thin or thick you roll the rope, but each finished section should be about a tablespoon of dough. Flatten each ball of dough with your palms and dust well with flour. Roll into a three inch round with a rolling pin, making the edges thinner than the center.
UPDATE: I've moved back home to Australia and purchased wonton skins (still labelled jiaozi pi in Chinese) from the Asian grocer. They were a bit firmer and needed a bit firmer squeeze to close off, but they turned out exactly the same. The grocer also sold yellow-coloured square skins - these are not what you're after.