Gok Jai Chinese Dumplings

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I am a person who truly appreciates culture. When I’m traveling on vacation, a country’s culture is one of things that really sets a country apart to me. Culture can mean anything from religion and arts, to architecture and the people.

Equally as important to me is the mission of discovering my own roots, where my culture came from and learning from those who are deeply rooted in our family, our elders.  One thing that is very much appreciated and embraced in the Chinese culture is FOOD. Talk to any Chinese grandma about food and their eyes light up and it’s like you hit the jackpot of all topics. An hour later, they’ll still be talking about the way they used to make things, the way their mothers cooked over fire pits outside and how their entire families would sit around a small table and fight for food, each with their small bowls of rice and the small communal dishes of meat and veggies in the middle of the table. Stories about food, lead to stories about sacrifice and pain and escaping from Communist China and fleeing to Canada. It’s truly amazing what they had to go through and it’s important that we hear first hand, while we still can, about what our elders went through in order for us to experience the freedom and the life that we live today. 

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My grandpa’s second oldest sister, Yee Goo Poh to me, is the cutest workhorse you’ve ever met. This strong woman is 86 years old, has 6 daughters and a whole clan of grandchildren. She lives on her own, still drives, mows the lawn (her favourite activity) and gardens practically everyday.

When her water stopped one day, she took two empty milk jugs, went down the stairs and down the street to her neighbours, filled up the jugs full of water, lugged them back up the street, back up the stairs and into her house all on her own. That process was repeated multiple times. She is also the woman who went to pick up her grandson from school, whose car broke down and stopped in the middle of the street, a block away from her house. One might think to call a mechanic, but no. She made arrangements to have her grandson picked up and made her way to the Honda dealership. There she purchased a brand new Civic and drove home (all the other car needed was a simple fix – which later went to one of her granddaughters).

She recently went to the doctor who was amazed and told her that she had the body of a 60 year old (no surprise from someone who mows the lawn twice a week and trucks up and down the stairs to her in-house grocery store multiple times a day). She’s truly amazing.

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One day, I asked her if she would be willing to teach me how to make her world-renowned Gok Jai (chinese dumplings). So one bright and sunny day, my mother, one of her daughters and myself went over to learn from the master. Little did we know that when we arrived at 10:00am, she had already made a whole batch of dumplings, some chow mein and some other dumplings. Again, amazing. 

Now, this recipe isn’t what we would consider an “easy recipe”. But it’s definitely worth it. When you have some time, buckle down and make them. I promise you they’ll be gone in a flash but your stomach and those privileged folk who get to try the dumplings will thank you a million times over.

One other note, the measurements are approximate. Back when they were younger, they didn’t have all the fancy kitchen tools we had, so it’s a bowl of this, a spoonful of that, 3 swirls of soy sauce. So we tried to measure it out but you may need to adjust. Regardless, I’m sure they’ll be wonderful.

Get in touch with your roots, it’s a beautiful thing. 

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Recipe: Gok Jai Chinese Dumplings

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 3-4 pieces preserved dried turnip
  • ¾ lb ground pork
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 package dried shrimp
  • 2 cups chinese mushrooms
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 heaping tsp sugar
  • soya sauce
  • oyster sauce

Dough:

  • 3 ¾ cups cold water
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1 bag wheat starch
  • 2 cups tapioca starch

1. Prepare part of your dough first. It needs to sit for about 30 minutes before you can actually work with it so you can cook your filling in the meantime.

2. Go to your local Chinese grocer and pick up all the necessary ingredients. This is the package of wheat starch you’re going to need.

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3. Boil the 3 ¾ cups of water and salt

4. Add the boiling mixture to the full package of wheat starch in a large mixing bowl (easiest to do in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl). Mix to combine.  

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5. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it steam. Leave for 30 minutes. 

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Start on the filling while you wait.

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*Note: the dried shrimp and usually the dehydrated chinese mushrooms (unless you buy them fresh) need to be soaked in water before you chop them up. 

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6. Chop all filling ingredients into small pieces (preserved turnip, dried shrimp, water chestnuts and Chinese mushrooms). Keep all the chopped ingredients in separate bowls. 

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7. Heat the wok then add oil

8. Fry the shrimp, turnip and Chinese mushroom together

9. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping spoonfuls of sugar and about 1-2 tbsp of oyster sauce. 

10. Remove from the wok

11. Season the ground pork in a separate bowl with 1 tbsp soy sauce and a dash of salt.

12. Brown the pork and stir fry in the hot wok.

13. Add the cut up water chestnuts, a couple pinches of salt and oyster sauce. Mix together then add a little bit of water to the pork mixture. Add a pinch of sugar to the mixture. 

14. Add the first mixture of vegetables and shrimp with the pork and water chestnuts into the wok with the cooked pork and chestnuts and pan-fry until thoroughly combined.

15. Put aside in a bowl and let cool a bit.  

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Back to the dough…

16. After 30 minutes place the bowl in the Kitchen Aid mixer and add the 2 cups of tapioca starch. 

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17. Knead the dough with a kitchen aid (using the dough hook) until completely combined.

*tip:  cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth so that the starch doesn’t fly everywhere the machine kneads the dough.

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18. Scrape down the bowl and knead the dough for 5 minutes. 

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Putting together the Gok Jai:  

19. Roll out a section of dough then section off in to 1 inch ball-sized rounds. 

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20. Press and flatten the balls until they are about 2mm thick using a tortilla press (if no tortilla press, can put the dough balls between 2 pieces of parchment paper and use the bottom of a flat-bottomed bowl to push down the dough)

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21. Add the filling to the skin, fold in half and pinch off the edges to seal the gok jai. Start at one corner and using your thumb, fold down the edge and keep going along the edge of the dumpling. This is an art so don’t be discouraged if yours looks like a complete mess, it takes many years of practicing to perfect).

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The workstation.  

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22. Oil the bottom and edges of the steamer so that the gok jai don’t stick to the steamer

23. Place the gok jai in the steamer

24. Heat the water in the bottom of the steamer on high

25. While the water is boiling, place the full steamers on to the bottom piece of the steamer

26. Turn heat to medium

27. Switch the steamer trays after 8 mins if there is more than 1 level of steamer trays.

28. Steam for another 8 minutes until dumpling skin is translucent.

29. Let cool.

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30. Once cooled flick cold water on the dumplings and wetting your fingers with cold water, slowly peel each of the dumplings off each other and remove them from the steaming tray.

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And after a few hours of cooking and bonding over dumpling making, you’re ready to sit down to feast over chow mein, dumplings and tea. There truly are some things that money can’t buy, and that experience was one of them for me.  Thank you to Yee Goo Poh, my Auntie Trudy (for translating) and to my Mom for making us look bad with her superior dumpling making skills. It was the cooking class of a lifetime.   

 

Love. S

 

Gok Jai Chinese Dumplings
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Filling
  1. 3-4 pieces preserved dried turnip
  2. ¾ lb ground pork
  3. 1 can water chestnuts
  4. 1 package dried shrimp
  5. 2 cups chinese mushrooms
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 2 heaping tsp sugar
  8. soya sauce
  9. oyster sauce
Dough
  1. 3 ¾ cups cold water
  2. 1 heaping tsp salt
  3. 1 bag wheat starch
  4. 2 cups tapioca starch
Instructions
  1. 1. Prepare part of your dough first. It needs to sit for about 30 minutes before you can actually work with it so you can cook your filling in the meantime.
  2. 2. Go to your local Chinese grocer and pick up all the necessary ingredients. This is the package of wheat starch you’re going to need.
  3. 3. Boil the 3 ¾ cups of water and salt
  4. 4. Add the boiling mixture to the full package of wheat starch in a large mixing bowl (easiest to do in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl). Mix to combine.
  5. 5. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it steam. Leave for 30 minutes.
  6. Start on the filling while you wait.
  7. *Note: the dried shrimp and usually the dehydrated chinese mushrooms (unless you buy them fresh) need to be soaked in water before you chop them up.
  8. 6. Chop all filling ingredients into small pieces (preserved turnip, dried shrimp, water chestnuts and Chinese mushrooms). Keep all the chopped ingredients in separate bowls.
  9. 7. Heat the wok then add oil
  10. 8. Fry the shrimp, turnip and Chinese mushroom together
  11. 9. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping spoonfuls of sugar and about 1-2 tbsp of oyster sauce.
  12. 10. Remove from the wok
  13. 11. Season the ground pork in a separate bowl with 1 tbsp soy sauce and a dash of salt.
  14. 12. Brown the pork and stir fry in the hot wok.
  15. 13. Add the cut up water chestnuts, a couple pinches of salt and oyster sauce. Mix together then add a little bit of water to the pork mixture. Add a pinch of sugar to the mixture.
  16. 14. Add the first mixture of vegetables and shrimp with the pork and water chestnuts into the wok with the cooked pork and chestnuts and pan-fry until thoroughly combined.
  17. 15. Put aside in a bowl and let cool a bit.
  18. Back to the dough…
  19. 16. After 30 minutes place the bowl in the Kitchen Aid mixer and add the 2 cups of tapioca starch.
  20. 17. Knead the dough with a kitchen aid (using the dough hook) until completely combined.
  21. *tip: cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth so that the starch doesn’t fly everywhere the machine kneads the dough.
  22. 18. Scrape down the bowl and knead the dough for 5 minutes.
Putting together the Gok Jai
  1. 19. Roll out a section of dough then section off in to 1 inch ball-sized rounds.
  2. 20. Press and flatten the balls until they are about 2mm thick using a tortilla press (if no tortilla press, can put the dough balls between 2 pieces of parchment paper and use the bottom of a flat-bottomed bowl to push down the dough)
  3. 21. Add the filling to the skin, fold in half and pinch off the edges to seal the gok jai. Start at one corner and using your thumb, fold down the edge and keep going along the edge of the dumpling. This is an art so don’t be discouraged if yours looks like a complete mess, it takes many years of practicing to perfect).
  4. 22. Oil the bottom and edges of the steamer so that the gok jai don’t stick to the steamer
  5. 23. Place the gok jai in the steamer
  6. 24. Heat the water in the bottom of the steamer on high
  7. 25. While the water is boiling, place the full steamers on to the bottom piece of the steamer
  8. 26. Turn heat to medium
  9. 27. Switch the steamer trays after 8 mins if there is more than 1 level of steamer trays.
  10. 28. Steam for another 8 minutes until dumpling skin is translucent.
  11. 29. Let cool.
  12. 30. Once cooled flick cold water on the dumplings and wetting your fingers with cold water, slowly peel each of the dumplings off each other and remove them from the steaming tray.
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8 Responses to Gok Jai Chinese Dumplings

  1. Ann May 29, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    This was fascinating! Thanks so much to you and your relatives for sharing your grandmother’s process. I bet the dumplings taste as wonderful as they look.

    • Sheryl Yen May 29, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it Ann and that I could share her story with all of you wonderful people. I assure you the dumplings were so amazing that I looked like a stuffed panda afterwards! Thanks for sharing!

  2. EC May 29, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    30 steps of goodness – translates to me being a happy camper

  3. Winnie May 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Wow, looks so good. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  4. Rebecca C. May 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Grandmas and moms make the best dumplings ever!!!

    • Sheryl Yen May 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      They are top notch experts!

  5. Jackie May 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Amazing women! Thanks for sharing!

    • Sheryl May 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Something for us to aspire to! You’re most welcome and it was my pleasure sharing her story with you :)

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