Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings 水晶饺 (Shuĭ Jing Jiao)


Date Published: August 9th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 9th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, easy, soups
Serves: 24 dumplings | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

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[Warning: Long foreword to this post. If you want to skip ahead to the recipe, click on the link above.]

Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings!!! I don’t think I’ve been more excited or proud to share a recipe! These hold the ultimate nostalgia for me. My maternal grandparents live in Miao Li which is a county ages away from Taipei (where we lived) and it takes roughly 2.5 hours train ride to get there and then we’d have to hail a cab to get to their house because their public transport system isn’t the most efficient. Although the journey to visit them is laborious, it was always so nice to see them, especially when it was only once a year when we’d visit Taiwan. It was even better when ‘wai po’ (grandmother on my mother’s side) would visit us in Taipei and stay for a few weeks at a time. She’d always make such delicious food (steamed egg (chawanmushi), fried fish and sesame chicken soup was her specialty). Back to crystal dumplings: she never made them for us but there was a special shop in Miao Li that would sell them frozen and she’d always buy a big bag of them when she visited. Those crystal dumplings were Miao Li’s best kept secret. I’ve had crystal dumplings in Taipei from various shops, but none compared to the ones she’d bring from Miao Li. Now in her later years she doesn’t travel to Taipei anymore, but every time we’d visit Miao Li with my aunt, we’d be sure to pick up a bag before heading home.

Crystal dumplings were always this special treat that we’d only get if wai po visited or if we made the journey to Miao Li. There was no other way to get them and no one else makes a good substitute (I guess you could say I have very high crystal dumpling standards 😜). However since the pandemic, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands and I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the cooking world. I was a self-taught cook in the kitchen and only made Western dishes in the early days roughly 8 years ago. Asian food is familiar territory when it came to ordering from a restaurant, but cooking it was completely foreign to me – I had no idea where to start (so many sauces!). Over the years I became more competent in the kitchen and started cooking more Asian food. During this pandemic and with the release of Polyphagic Abby, I found myself gravitating towards more and more traditional Taiwanese and Chinese dishes. Perhaps I’m missing my family from so far away in all this craziness or maybe it’s because there’s no decent good Chinese food out here in the Aussie country. Whatever the reason, it makes me so happy when a recipe turns out perfectly and I’m transported back to the days eating with my family again.

I’ve had a few victories so far recreating my childhood dishes such as cheese dan bing, Vietnamese pho, and Taiwanese cold noodles which I’m all really proud of, but I’m especially proud of this crystal dumplings recipe because this brings me back home. A lot of dishes make me revisit my childhood in Taiwan, but this one in particular makes me think of wai po. This is a photo of wai po and wai gong back in 2016.

Taiwan has a LOT of popular dishes but for whatever reason the reputation of the crystal dumpling didn’t cross into the Western world so it was impossible to find any recipes on these bad boys. I searched high and low and couldn’t find any english recipes for this dish so after watching multiple Taiwanese youtube cooking videos, compiling different methods and ingredients together with a lot of taste-testing and trial and error (I still have a 500g bag of failed pork filling in the freezer that I didn’t want to throw away 😂), I think I’ve successfully created a recipe that is just like the ones in Miao Li (I haven’t been to Miao Li in a few years, but I’ll have to have them side by side to be extra sure) 👏 👏 👏 (is it weird to applaud myself? I’m just that proud)! Crystal dumplings are one of my mom’s favourite foods so I’ll have to let her be the judge when we can be together again. This is the reason why I’m so proud and excited to share this recipe with you. Not only because it’s so sentimental to me, but also because I feel like I’m introducing crystal dumplings to the Western world and it’s a Taiwanese secret that the world needs to know about.

Taiwanese crystal dumplings have an outer casing that’s made with potato starch which becomes translucent when the dumplings cool down after being cooked (hence “crystal”). The starch gives it a distinct chewy texture. The casing itself doesn’t have much flavour but serves more as a textural component. The real flavour is in the pork filling which is sautéed in fried shallots and soy sauce, making a little flavour bomb. The intensity of the flavours in the filling carries the bland casing with it to create a wonderful balanced mouthful of savoury chewy goodness. There are multiple ways to eat a crystal dumping. My favourite way is to have it in a bowl of warm chicken soup with fried shallots but you can also eat it on its own or throw it in a hotpot. Scroll to the end of the recipe and I’ll show you how to eat them in different ways! I’ll be uploading a video on how to make them shortly so keep an eye out!

Anyways, thanks for reading my story and without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Filling:
    • 200g pork mince
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps fried shallots
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • Crystal Dumpling Skin:
    • 1 cup (165g) potato starch
    • 1/4 cup boiling water
    • 3 Tbsps (45ml) cold water + more if needed
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Bowl of cold water + 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

Make the filling: Heat a skillet over MED-HIGH heat and sauté 1/3 of the pork mince in some oil until cooked through. Add in the soy sauce and stir until fragrant. Turn off the heat and mix in the fried shallots.

Put all the contents from the skillet in a large bowl and mix in the remaining pork mince and white pepper to the bowl. You should now have a sticky filling mixture. Set aside.

Make the dumpling wrappers: In a wide base bowl (you want a wider base for a bigger surface area), add in potato starch and pour the boiling water over the potato starch and mix with a spatula until combined/clumped together. When the dough is cool enough to handle, continue mixing with your hands. THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL! The boiling water cooks the starch and it’s what gives the dumpling the chewy texture so you want to mix it all together as best as you can before adding the cold water. Once you’ve mixed it as well as you can (you’ll end up with a rough dry dough (second photo)), add in the cold water 1/3 at a time while using your hands to mix the dough until you get a smooth ball (you might not need all of the water, just add enough until it’s smooth). Roll the dough around the bowl to ensure you’ve incorporated all of the potato starch into the dough. Add in 2 tsps of sesame oil and mix it into the dough. You should have a smooth, easily pliable dough ball similar to soft play-doh.

Oil your hands and roll the dough out into a roll and cut it into 24 equal pieces (you can keep dividing the dough into halves until you reach 24 pieces). Then using your hands, flatten each small dough ball into a flat pancake roughly 2-3mm thick and place 1 tsp of filling in the middle. Bring the edges together to form a triangle shape and press together the edges to seal it.

Tips:

  • Be careful not to overfill the dumplings! This dough is not like typical dumpling dough and does not stretch well – it can easily break if you stretch it too much or overfill the dumplings. If you can see the filling through the skin, you’ve stretched it too much and it will have a higher chance of breaking while cooking.
  • If you’re worried you’re wrapping them too thin or thick, you can always wrap a few and cook them first as a test to see if the thickness is right for you.
  • While you’re wrapping the dumplings, keep the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. By keeping your hands oiled during the wrapping process it helps keep the dough moist and easier to work with.

Cook the Dumplings: Once you’ve finished wrapping all your dumplings, bring a pot of water to a hard boil and gently drop the dumplings in one at a time. Traditionally when dumplings float to the top they’re considered cooked, however with these dumplings I found that they need a little longer to cook the skin to get the ultimate chewy texture. These dumplings will pretty much float to the top in the first 30 seconds, but they aren’t done cooking until the skin looks a little puffy/squishy and the edges are a little translucent (see photo above – it’s hard to describe it!), ~5-8 mins to cook.

Strain from the hot water and dunk them into a bowl of cold water with sesame oil (the oil stops them from sticking together and the cold water stops the cooking process, firms up the skin, and also makes the dumplings more translucent). When cooled, drain them (don’t let them soak for too long in the water or they can get soggy and fall apart).

Choose Your Eating Adventure:

In a broth (my favourite way!!): Add some fried shallots and chopped spring onion to a bowl and pour hot chicken stock into the bowl, topped with a few dumplings and serve. You can also add in some noodles and shredded chicken if you like to make it a full meal.

Eaten alone: If the dumplings have cooled, put them in a pot of boiling water to warm them up and then drain and serve with any sauce you like. Lao gan ma crispy chilli oil would be my go-to choice! You can alternatively also eat them directly as they come out of the pot after boiling instead of dunking them in cold water but make sure you add some sesame oil on them or else they’ll stick together when you serve it.

Storage: Drain the dumplings well and place them in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of sesame oil and mix them around. You can refrigerate them in the bag for a few days but I’d recommend eating them soon

In a hotpot: Dump them directly in your hotpot soup! They only take a couple minutes to warm up and be ready to eat.

Summarized Recipe:

Taiwanese Crystal Dumplings 水晶饺 (Shuĭ Jing Jiao)

Date Published: August 9th, 2020 | Last Updated: August 9th, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, easy, soups
Serves: 24 dumplings | Prep time: 30 mins | Cook time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

  • Filling:
    • 200g pork mince
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 Tbsps fried shallots
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • Crystal Dumpling Skin:
    • 1 cup (165g) potato starch
    • 1/4 cup boiling water
    • 3 Tbsps (45ml) cold water + more if needed
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Bowl of cold water + 2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Make the filling: Heat a skillet over MED-HIGH heat and sauté 1/3 of the pork mince in some oil until cooked through. Add in the soy sauce and stir until fragrant. Turn off the heat and mix in the fried shallots. Put all the contents from the skillet in a large bowl and mix in the remaining pork mince and white pepper to the bowl. You should now have a sticky filling mixture. Set aside.
  2. Make the dumpling wrappers: In a wide base bowl, add in potato starch and pour the boiling water over the potato starch and mix with a spatula until combined/clumped together. When the dough is cool enough to handle, continue mixing with your hands to pick up as much starch as possible (you’ll end up with a rough dry crumbly dough (see photo above) – THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL! Next add in the cold water 1/3 at a time while using your hands to mix the dough until you get a smooth ball (you might not need all of the water, just add enough until it’s smooth). Roll the dough around the bowl to ensure you’ve incorporated all of the potato starch into the dough. Add in 2 tsps of sesame oil and mix it into the dough. You should have a smooth, easily pliable dough ball similar to soft play-doh.
  3. Oil your hands and roll the dough out into a roll and cut it into 24 equal pieces. Then using your hands, flatten each small dough ball into a flat pancake roughly 2-3mm thick and place 1 tsp of filling in the middle. Bring the edges together to form a triangle shape and press together the edges to seal it (see tips and photos above). Don’t overfill or stretch them too much and keep your remaining dough under cover so it doesn’t dry out.
  4. Cook the Dumplings: Once you’ve finished wrapping all your dumplings, bring a pot of water to a hard boil and gently drop the dumplings in one at a time. They’re done when the skin looks a little puffy/squishy and the edges are a little translucent (see photo above – it’s hard to describe it!), ~5-8 mins to cook.
  5. Strain from the hot water and dunk them into a bowl of cold water with sesame oil. When cooled, drain them (don’t let them soak for too long in the water or they can get soggy and fall apart).

Choose Your Eating Adventure:

  • In a broth (my favourite way!!): Add some fried shallots and chopped spring onion to a bowl and pour hot chicken stock into the bowl, topped with a few dumplings and serve. You can also add in some noodles and shredded chicken if you like to make it a full meal.
  • Eaten alone: If the dumplings have cooled, put them in a pot of boiling water to warm them up and then drain and serve with any sauce you like. Lao gan ma crispy chilli oil would be my go-to choice! You can alternatively also eat them directly as they come out of the pot after boiling instead of dunking them in cold water but make sure you add some sesame oil on them or else they’ll stick together when you serve it.
  • Storage: Drain the dumplings well and place them in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of sesame oil and mix them around. You can refrigerate them in the bag for a few days.
  • In a hotpot: Dump them directly in your hotpot soup! They only take a couple minutes to warm up and be ready to eat.

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