Recipe: chinese egg dumplings (dan jiao)
I’ve spent the better part of the past week getting ready for Chinese New Year, so much so that I nearly forgot about my mammogram and ultrasound from mid-week. I’m not traumatized by these appointments. The medical center I go to has really wonderful staff and technicians. I sandwiched the medical imaging into my busy errands schedule that day. At the end, the techs always walk me to the front desk, shake my hand, give me a card explaining to expect my results in 10-14 days, and wish me good health. For that split moment I wonder about those results. It’s the difference between nothing and everything. And then I strode briskly out the doors, my brain in grocery-hunting mode.
Most of the food is prepped or cooked for the big feast on New Year’s Eve. The house is nearly clean because once the new year arrives, you can’t clean for 2 weeks lest you sweep the luck out. Speaking of luck, it’s tradition to hang the Chinese character for luck (fu) on your front door, upside down (dao). Dao is also a homonym for the verb “to arrive” – so you definitely want luck arriving at your door, at your house.
here’s what fu looks like right-side up
Jeremy and I reached a stopping point in the housework Saturday afternoon and took Kaweah for a walk before the snow storm arrived in the evening. It was ridiculously warm out – 45°F! It felt like spring except for the sun low in the sky. There were patches of bare ground dotting the snow… sad, but not uncommon. What horrified me were the puddles. Liquid water shouldn’t be making an appearance around here until May!
kaweah is an all-terrain kinda girl
Kaweah had a blast sniffing every.darn.thing.on.the.ground. Back home, a message waited in my in-box from my health care provider. Strange. I wasn’t expecting anything. It was a note from my oncologist that my scans were clean. I grinned. That was only four days ago. And my oncologist is working on a weekend AGAIN (of course – he is amazing). It’s been over four years since my first mammogram did NOT detect my cancer, so I take these negative scans for what they’re worth. I trust my yearly MRIs more. Even so, it’s a really nice way to start the new year.
Every Chinese New Year’s Eve we enjoy a big pot of cellophane noodle soup, a type of hot pot (huo guo) that is different from the more common Chinese hot pot. I make the cellophane noodle soup several times a year, but Chinese New Year’s Eve is the only time I go to the effort of making egg dumplings (dan jiao) to add to the soup. They represent wealth (any dumpling represents wealth).
the filling: ground pork, green onions, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginger, napa cabbage
mincing the ginger
Honestly, I make them for the eating more than for the wealth, but it’s a tradition in my family. Now the filling can be pretty simple: some ground pork, green onions, seasonings, and you’re good. Since I am making the filling for Chinese potstickers too, I just make a lot of it. It has more vegetables in it, which I prefer.
adding sesame oil
mixed and ready to use
These egg dumplings require a little practice. It’s like making omelets. My first few were enormous and really strange looking. Over the years, I’ve learned to aim for a small size so that they wind up being normal. If they’re too large, they break easily in the soup. I find one to two tablespoons of egg works for the right size of dumpling. Also, pour the egg in the middle of the hot pan and use the back of the spoon to spread it in a circular motion. This helps to keep it circular rather than looking like a map of Italy.
beat the eggs
when egg is cooked on bottom, but still wet on top, add a heaping teaspoon of filling
Flatten the filling if you can and place it next to the center of the bisector (if the egg is not symmetrical, I recommend choosing the shortest bisector). Next, carefully fold the empty half of the egg wrapper over the filling using a spatula. Press the edges down to seal them. The liquid egg should cook and act like a glue. I like to press the filling down to flatten it a bit too.
fold the dumpling in half
press the edges down to seal
This can get messy and it’s time consuming since I make these one at a time. If you fold the dumpling too early, it will tear the egg sheet. If you fold too late, the dumpling won’t seal. The base should be cooked, but the top should still be wet and eggy. You usually get the hang of it after the second or third one. I don’t worry about cooking the pork filling all the way through just because it’s going to cook in the soup. If you plan to eat the dumpling on its own (I’ve never done this), then definitely cook it long enough so the filling isn’t raw.
all of the goodies for the soup
My cellophane noodle soup has a chicken broth base. To it, I add Napa cabbage, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, preserved mustard green, cellophane noodles, fish balls, pork meatballs (same as the filling in the egg dumplings), tofu puffs, tempura cake, and egg dumplings. It’s perfect in winter and hopefully it will bring luck, health, fortune, happiness, and all of the good stuff in the new year. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! Gong Xi Fa Tsai!
make sure each bowl has at least one of each ingredient
mmm, egg dumpling
Chinese Egg Dumplings (Dan Jiao)
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 stalk green onion, minced (~1.5 tbsps)
2 Chinese black mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated, stem removed, minced (~2 tbsps)
2 tbsps bamboo shoots, minced
1 leaf Napa cabbage, thick base removed, minced (~2 tbsps)
1/2 tbsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt
Combine the ground pork, green onion, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, cabbage, ginger, cornstarch, soy sauce, and sesame oil together in a medium bowl. Mix for even distribution. Beat the eggs and salt together. Heat a dash of vegetable oil in a small skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of the egg mixture in the center of the pan. Use the back of a spoon to gently spread the uncooked egg in a circular motion to form a circle about 3-inches in diameter. When the base of the egg sheet is cooked, but the top is still uncooked, place a heaping teaspoon of pork filling just off center on the egg. Flatten the filling into a compact oval shape. Fold the egg sheet in half, sealing the pork filling in the egg wrapper by pressing the edges together. It should resemble a semicircle. When the egg is cooked, remove the dumpling to a plate and repeat until you run out of ingredients. The egg dumplings are now ready to be added to the hot pot soup (to cook some more – this ensures the pork filling is fully cooked). Makes 24.