Don’t call me Jiaozi, I’m not that kind of dumpling
A short ode to my favorite snack:
Dumplings are wildly popular the world over, and as Lucky Peach just pointed out it is a food category that could be applied to almost anything. In China, dumplings or Jiaozi (饺子), steamed or fried, have become an iconic image of the country and its food culture. Jiaozi are diverse in flavor and the cultural space they occupy and feature prominently in one form or another across the country.
But in Sichuan, the dumpling of the people and one of the most under-rated classic dishes is called Chaoshou. While in form and substance Chaoshou could be mistaken for Jiaozi, its a distinction not to be taken lightly; it’s categorically a different thing here.
First things first – Jiaozi (as they are generally understood in China) are made with round ‘skins’ and can be filled with just about anything. They are often ordered by the filling and while most commonly steamed, they can also be fried or featured in soups ( I guess). They are commonly served with vinegar and chili sauce for dipping.
*baozi, or the many sub-varieties of ‘bao (包)’ are a whole other thing and won’t be discussed here… same with wontons (hundun 混沌）. For a comprehensive dumpling breakdown check out the Cleaver Quarterly’s recent post.
ChaoShao on the other hand are made with square skins, folded corner to corner creating a distinct crescent moon shape and are filled with pork and ginger and boiled. That’s it. The additional flavors come from the sauce in which they are served – Original Flavor (often chicken soup), Chil Oil, or as the ‘famous snack’ places point out Sour and Spicy. It can also be served inside a spicy, numb and hot broth.
The pure simplicity of the dish is beautiful and is what makes it golden. In a way it’s representative of the food culture in Sichuan as a whole – simple, unpretentious, delicious and stubbornly unchangable.
ChaoShou in Chili Oil(红油抄手) is, and has long been a favorite breakfast and snack of mine. The ‘dumplings’ are served dry (that is not in soup) on a bed of light chili oil with a hint of sweetness, spice and toasted garlic. Don’t miss your chance to have some Chao Shou when your in the city.
We feature ChaoShou in as many tours as we can, even if it’s not breakfast time!