In the Northern provinces of China, dumplings or Jiaozi are THE star of every family’s Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. The most commonly seen dumplings for this special occasion are San Xian dumplings, Pork with Sour Cabbage dumplings, ground lamb with scallion dumplings, and these Shandong Pork & Fish Dumplings, often made with mackerel (ba yu jiaozi, 鲅鱼饺子).
A Surprising Combination
The mixture of pork and fish may sound foreign, but it makes for a wonderfully savory combination, and the mackerel has a surprisingly mild flavor and texture that really makes these dumplings delicious and pillowy soft on the inside.
Even though these Pork and Fish Dumplings are quite popular in Shandong, they are a bit of a discovery for us and probably for many of you as well. But rest assured that these dumplings passed the taste test from the tough critics at TWOL.
With this dumpling recipe, there are endless possibilities when it comes to dumpling/wonton fillings––just vary the ratios of pork, fish, chives, and other veggies.
Chinese New Year Tradition
Dumplings or jiaozi are the perfect celebratory food on Chinese New Year’s Eve, because not only do they symbolize prosperity, making them is a real family event. Sitting and assembling the dumplings isn’t just about food preparation, it’s the perfect opportunity for storytelling and laughter.
After a dinner of dumplings, there are plenty of leftovers, symbolizing abundance, and fireworks to scare away misfortune from the current year. Oftentimes, elders will stay up past midnight to welcome the arrival of a lunar new year. These popular and time-honored traditions bring comfort, hope and, most importantly, family togetherness!
How to Wrap Northern-Style Dumplings
Have you noticed that these Shandong Pork and Fish Dumplings are shaped a little differently than our regular pleated dumpling shapes? This is a Northern-style dumpling (Jiaozi).
I figured that it was about time that we all learn this technique: you just gently squeeze the dumpling together into a half moon with a single pleat. (See the recipe for more details.) The good news is, they’re much faster to make!
Before we start though, let’s talk details.
- My 2½-pound king mackerel yielded about 19 ounces of fish without the bones. Feel free to use Spanish mackerel as well as other tender fish like flounder, tilapia, and sole. Just have your fishmonger fillet the fish and remove the skin. But don’t forget to ask for the fish bones to make a tasty fish soup or stock!
- With the fish fillets, you still need to take a spoon and scrape the fish meat a little bit at a time, as you’ll find there is a tough membrane that should be discarded.
- If you end up with more/less than 19 ounces of fish meat, simply increase/reduce the ground pork by equal weight. Overall, you’re looking for a filling with more fish than pork.
Shandong Dumplings: Recipe Instructions
Start by making the dumpling dough. Add the all-purpose flour to the bowl of an electric mixer. With the mixer on low, slowly add the water. Run the mixer until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. 2 cups of water is a baseline. You may need less water in humid climates and more in drier climates/times of year (i.e. winter).
The finished dough should be soft and pliable, but not wet or sticky. Cover with an overturned bowl or plate, and let the dough rest on the counter for 1 hour. This gives the flour more time to absorb moisture, which will make the dough smoother and easier to work with. While the dough is resting, make the filling.
Take a spoon and scrape the fish meat a little bit at a time, discarding the tough membrane that’s left behind.
Coarsely chop the fish (no need to make it into a paste-like texture at this stage). I also hand-chopped my ground pork (you can also substitute ground dark meat chicken), because I prefer grinding my own meat by hand.
Add the fish to a large mixing bowl along with the rest of the filling ingredients, including the Chinese garlic chives and ginger. (Scroll down to the recipe card to see the full list of ingredients.)
Whip in one direction using chopsticks or a wooden spoon for a good 5 minutes until the filling becomes gooey and sticky. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Now we are ready to assemble the dumplings! When the dough is done resting, cut it into eighths. Take one of your smaller pieces of dough, keeping the rest of the pieces covered to prevent them from drying out. Roll the small piece of dough into a thick cylinder on a clean and lightly floured surface.
Cut the cylinder into 10-gram pieces using a kitchen scale. Now take one piece, and roll it from edge to center with a small rolling pin as you turn the dough in a circular motion. The end result is a 3-inch diameter dumpling wrapper that has thinner edges and a slightly thicker center.
Add about a tablespoon of filling to the center, and fold the wrapper in half.
Position the dumpling so that each side is held in place by your thumb and index finger (this is a two-handed operation).
Then with gentle pressure, press the two sides of the wrappers closed tightly. At the same time, press the filling slightly downward, by bringing your wrists slightly closer. Practice will make perfect!
If you’d rather pleat the dumplings, check out our article on how to fold dumplings (4 techniques, from beginner to advanced). Place the dumplings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Before you go too far down the road of making the dumplings, now is a good time to pause for a taste test. Boil a small pot of water just as you’re beginning to assemble your pork and fish dumplings, and cook 2-3 test dumplings according to the cooking instructions below.
Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly before proceeding with the rest of the batch! You may want more Shaoxing wine, more ginger, or more salt, for example.
Before cooking the pork and fish dumplings, assemble the dipping sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. You can also try Sarah’s Perfect Dumpling Sauce.
To cook the dumplings, make sure to cook them in small batches, since the filling is somewhat wet and the dumplings will loose their shape when left sitting for too long.
- Step 1: Fill a large soup pot halfway with water. Bring it to a boil.
- Step 2: Add the dumplings, stirring the water slowly as you add them to prevent them from sticking to each other. Keep the pot uncovered.
- Step 3: Bring the water to a boil again, and then add 1 additional cup of cold water to stop the boiling process.
- Step 4: As the pot of water continues to rise in temperature, repeat step 3 until the dumplings are floating to the surface.
- Step 5: Scoop them out with a strainer or slotted spoon, and enjoy them right away with the dipping sauce. Cook additional batches as needed!
To store your dumplings (Jiaozi) for later in the new year…
This recipe makes about 130 fish dumplings , so I’m pretty sure you’ll want to freeze the uncooked dumplings for later use. Just place your fish dumplings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, ensuring that the dumplings are not touching each other.
Cover with plastic wrap, and place the sheet pan in the freezer. Freeze overnight. In the morning, transfer the frozen dumplings to a zip-loc bag and back into the freezer they go. The cooking instructions for frozen dumplings are the same as for the fresh dumplings!
The filling for these Shandong pork and fish dumplings are very light and soft in texture and in flavor. Enjoy them for your Chinese New Year eve family celebration!