Dumplings can transport you to another place. I read about these jiaozi (the generic term for Chinese dumplings) in Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Beyond the Great Wall, a travelogue and cookbook about relatively remote parts of China. They came across these supersized dumplings (each is 7 to 8 inches wide) in Lhasa, Tibet, at the market near the Barkhor, the walking route encircling the Jokhang Temple. There was a certain rusticity about the recipe and cooking technique that captivated me.
The dumpling maker was from Hunan and her gingery vegan filling of noodles, mushroom, and pressed tofu was unlike the meat-centric ones typically found in Tibetan momo dumplings (if you’re interested, there are a several momo recipes in Asian Dumplings). In fact, locals found the Hunanese dumplings to be exotic.
I found the dumplings unusual because of their size, weren't eaten with sauce, and were slightly stretched before being dropped into oil and deep-fried to a crisp. From Alford and Duguid’s description, I imagined that they looked like big fried pies more than the dainty Chinese dumplings. They seemed kinda crazy and cool.
After realizing that the photo at the top doesn’t do justice to the dumplings’ size, I took this shot of one in my hand:
I had to give the giant jiaozi dumplings a try. Last night I made the filling and this morning, I prepared the dough. I used the Basic Dumpling Dough from Asian Dumplings, which is very similar to that is prescribed in Beyond the Great Wall. Everything came together just in time for lunch. Instead of eating the jiaozi out of hand like a street food, Rory and I enjoyed the dumplings with a salad, imagining ourselves exploring Lhasa.