Dumplings are small round pockets of thin dough wrapped around a pasty stuffing which is made of finely chopped vegetables and ground meat, fish, seafood or scrambled eggs. When it comes to cooking methods, there are 3 kinds of dumplings in China:
Steaming is the simplest and most common way to handle dough in China. In smaller restaurants which serve only flour based food, steamed dumplings are usually the only available kind, and often they only come with one sort of filling, which consists of pork. Most of the times you can recognize these places by the giant cloud of steam coming out of the cooking stand at the entrance.
Boiled (or simmered) dumplings are available mainly in mid-class restaurants in China. These restaurants serve a wide variety of dishes from all over China and the choice of dumplings they offer is also great. At the very least you will find pork, beef, mutton and shrimp based fillings along with a combination of different vegetables. Most people prefer boiled dumplings over steamed ones.
Restaurants which are a bit more on the fancy side may offer steam dumplings fried in shallow oil. The fraying causes the water to evaporate, therefore they are dryer than plainly steamed dumplings, and their skin is brown and crispy on the bottom. Since oil is involved they are also pricier than the other two kinds.
Way of Eating
Dumplings are usually dipped in some kind of souse. Some people like to eat them with soy souse, some people like vinegar and some people like a mixture of both. Adding other condiments like hot souse or mashed garlic is also very common.
Dumplings are common delicacy all around China and for many families they are an essential part of the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. If you find yourselves invited to such a meal, chew the dumplings very carefully. It is customary to hide a coin inside one of the dozens of dumplings served to the table and it is believed that whoever finds it will get rich in the year to come