Served in a very tasty way, beef dumpling soup is warm, comforting and addictive. This recipe provides a step by step guide on how to make it at home.
Beef dumplings in hot & sour soup
Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi, 饺子) can be cooked in several ways: water-boiled, pan-fried, steamed or deep-fried. Although they are all tasty in their own ways, my personal favourite has to be the boiled ones. To make it even better for cold winter days, I love serving them in a tasty soup.
A classic dish from Shannxi province of China, beef dumpling soup (酸汤水饺) showcases one of the most loved flavour combinations of the people from that region: hot & sour. Since my mum was born and grew up there, I appreciated dumplings served this way at a very young age. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods.
Make the wrappers from scratch
I always make dumpling wrappers from scratch. I have to admit it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming. But believe me! They are so much better than shop bought ones. Stretchy, easy to shape and seal, free from preservative and other hidden ingredients, homemade dumpling wrappers are worth all the effort! To make it easier, I have a few tips:
- Firm dough is easier to work with than very soft ones. When rolling, dust the surface and the rolling pin with flour if it appears to stick.
- There is no set rules on how you should roll a wrapper. Use whatever way you are most comfortable with. It takes a bit of practice to produce thin, round wrappers. But it’s not that difficult at all (My five-year-old makes perfect ones now).
- If available, you may use a pasta machine to assist. Roll the dough into a thin, flat piece then cut out circles with a wine glass!
- Read my post on Homemade Dumpling Wrappers for detailed instructions and watch the video in the recipe card at the end of this page.
Make the filling tender & moist
Beef filling can be very dry if it’s not properly prepared. To make it tender & moist, I have two tips to offer:
- I always choose minced beef with high fat content, preferably 10%.
- When it comes to mixing, the traditional method is to “Beat the filling (打馅儿)”: Add water or stock spoon by spoon while constantly swirl the meat in the same direction until all the liquid is completely absorbed.
Assemble the dumplings
It’s time to assemble the dumplings. Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of a wrapper. Fold the wrapper, then seal it. You may pleat it any way you like as long as you make sure there is no leakage.
Have a look at my post “How to fold dumplings” which introduces ten different methods for dumpling assembly. The tutorial video included will help you understand the techniques.
Cooking dumplings in water
Can be trickier than it sounds, boiling dumpling does require a bit of technique and attention.
- Use a large pot (or a wok) filled with plenty of water. Cook dumplings in batches. Ideally 20-25 dumplings at a time (adjust according to the size of the dumplings).
- Place dumplings in when the water is fully boiled. Then cover the pot with a lid.
- To avoid dumplings sticking to the bottom of the pot, you may gently push them around with the back of a cooking spoon.
- Add cold water three times when the water returns to a boil. When fully cooked, the dumplings should be bloated and floating on the surface.
Spice up the soup with big flavour
Pungent, aromatic and refreshing, this beef dumpling soup really hits the spot when you crave big flavour. I suggest that you take your time to prepare two key condiments:
- For the spiciness: Homemade Chinese chilli oil
- For the sourness: Spiced vinegar
In North-western Chinese households, it’s a regular kitchen practice to simmer black rice vinegar with spices: Chinese cinnamon (cassia cinnamon), star-anise, bay leaf, fennel seeds and Sichuan pepper, etc. If you are new to this regional taste, you might find it too strong. Please feel free to adjust the quantity. But I’m sure you will soon get used to this tangy flavour and love it as I do.
Beef dumplings in hot & sour soup (酸汤水饺)
For the dough
- 300 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 pinch salt
- 160 ml water, see note 1
For the filling
For the spiced vinegar
Make the dough
- In a mixing bowl, add flour, salt and water. Knead with your hands (or a stand mixer with a fitted dough hook) to form a medium-firm dough (See note 1).
- Leave to rest for 30-60 minutes. Then knead again until smooth.
Mix the filling
- Mix beef, spring onion, ginger, ground Sichuan pepper (or five-spice powder), rice wine and salt.
- Swirl constantly in the same direction while gradually adding water/stock into the mixture until all the liquid is completely absorbed.
- Add Chinese chive and sesame oil then mix well.
Prepare the spiced vinegar
- Simmer all the ingredients for the spiced vinegar for 5 mins (cover with a lid) then drain through a sieve. Discard the spices. Set aside.
Roll the wrappers (please refer to the video below)
- Make a loop with the dough (about 2.5 cm / 1 inch in diameter). Cut it into about 40 equal sections.
- Press each piece into a small disc with the palm of your hand.
- Use a rolling pin to flatten it into a thin disc (always remember to dust with flour if the dough sticks).
Shape the dumplings
- Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of a wrapper. Fold the wrapper, then seal it. You may do it any way you like as long as you make sure there is no leakage (See note 3).
Cook the dumplings
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over a high heat. Gently slide in half of the dumplings (see note 3). Cover with a lid.
- When the water returns to a boil, pour in about 120 ml of cold water then cover. Repeat the same procedure another two times (see note 4).
Assemble the bowl
- While waiting for the dumplings to cook, prepare the serving bowls. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of spiced vinegar into each bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients. Spoon in cooked dumplings along with some water from the pot.
How to freeze dumplings
- Freeze raw dumplings right after they are assembled. Lay them on a tray (dust with flour or line with parchment paper). When totally frozen, transfer them into an air-tight bag.
- No need to defrost before cooking. Follow the same cooking procedure described above.
Chinese New Year is just around the corner and dumpling dishes are indispensable for this most important festival of the year. Hope my beef dumpling soup has inspired you.