Book Bites: Jiaozi Dumplings with Michael Swanwick

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Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing sibling. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite.

Today, my neighbor and friend, author Michael Swanwick, brings to Book Bites something a little different. A vision of his latest travels to China with Ellen Datlow and Eileen Gunn, among others. Michael’s book Chasing the Phoenix, a Darger & Surplus novel, comes out from Tor on August 11. If you are in Philadelphia, you can join him at Main Point Books on 8/11, at the Philadelphia Free Library & Geekadelphia panel on the history and future of science fiction on 9/9, and, later,  in North Carolina.

Meantime, enjoy the dumplings!

Making Jiaozi Dumplings in Yangshuo

You push the dough inward and then you pinch it closed. Just like that, you’ve turned a spoonful of meat on a circle of dough into a traditional, scallop-shaped dumpling. It’s a magical moment.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There I am, above, with typography guru John Berry (looking startled) and editorial legend Ellen Datlow (wielding, appropriately enough, a cleaver). Along with nanopress mogul Marianne Porter and cult writer nonpareil Eileen Gunn, we were taking cooking lessons in a little restaurant off Old West Street in Yangshuo. We made three dishes, including kung pao chicken and stir-fried eggplant. But it was the dumplings that won my heart.

Michael Swanwick, John Berry, and Ellen Datlow, cooking

Did I mention that we five went wandering around China for three weeks together? That our lesson began with a visit to the local food distribution center to buy ingredients? (No dog, though that was available.) That this was just one of many wonderful experiences we had in that great nation? Good.

When we were done, we had for lunch the meals we had just prepared. It was all good – I’m a better cook than you’d expect – but the dumplings were the best.

Here’s the recipe. Remember: Push and then pinch.

  • 1/2 lb. Pork with fat (pork rib, pork shoulder, or pork belly) ground
  • 1 green onion, white and green portion minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • pinch MSG, to taste
  • dough circles (or wonton wrappers)

Mix ingredients together to make the filling. Then place a circle of dough flat in one hand.  Moisten the edge all the way around with water. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center.  Fold the dough up on either side and, before the edges touch, push the pointed ends toward each other. Then pinch the edges together with your fingers. You might want to find an instructional video online. Set the dumpling aside on a piece of parchment paper or floured board, and move on to the next one. When all are done, steam or brown.

Michael Swanwick is the winner of five Hugo Awards for his short fiction. His several novels include the Nebula-winning Stations of the Tide, the time-travel novel Bones of the Earth, and the “industrial fantasy” novels The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and The Dragons of Babel. He lives in Philadelphia. You can find him at Flogging Babel, and on Twitter.


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