Her popular Snappy Dragon restaurant in the Maple Leaf neighborhood celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
WHAT WOULD you say if I promised you could make delicious Chinese dumplings from scratch — wrappers and all — and have them on the table in less than an hour?
I can, thanks to Judy Fu, whose Snappy Dragon restaurant celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. There you’ll find Seattle’s flour-smudged treasure behind her six-seat jiao-zi bar most nights, doing what she’s been doing since she was a girl: rolling and stuffing those northern Chinese dumplings.
Schooled in the dumpling arts by her mother and grandmother, Judy later studied culinary arts in Taiwan, where she was raised. She brought that knowledge to Seattle in 1976, where her handmade dumplings and noodles became her calling card at a litany of restaurants before she struck out on her own in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.
Now 71, Judy can make jiao-zi (say jow-zuh) with her eyes closed. She’s a dexterous machine, using a wooden dowel to produce thousands each week. “Over 4 million sold!” claim her staffers.
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I can’t make dumplings with my eyes closed. But with coaching from Judy, I’ve learned that all it takes to create her thick, chewy jiao-zi is a simple ingredient: cake flour. Mixed with cold water, the low-protein flour makes a very forgiving dough. Judy wields that dowel with a snappy hand, lightly pressing while rotating each wrapper. But beginners like me are prone to mistakes: pinching off too much or too little for each wrapper; then under- or overstuffing them. Relax! You can do it all wrong, and it’ll still come out right.
Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times’ food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ellen M. Banner is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Judy Fu’s Pork Jiao-zi
Makes 36 dumplings
3/4 pound ground pork (not too lean!)
1/2 cup minced napa cabbage
2 finely sliced scallions (green part only)
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cups cake flour (plus more for rolling)
3/4 cup cold water
1. To make the filling: In a bowl, use your hands to thoroughly combine the pork, cabbage and scallions. In a separate bowl, mix the ginger, white pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil; add to the pork mixture. Mix thoroughly, in one direction only, until you have a well-blended paste. Refrigerate.
2. To make the dough: Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add water and stir to produce a fairly stiff dough that maintains a bit of stickiness. Add more cold water, a teaspoon at a time if necessary, to achieve the correct consistency. Knead by hand for 2 minutes until smooth, then cover with a slightly damp towel or place in a zip-top bag. Use immediately (or refrigerate the dough for no more than 24 hours).
3. To form the wrappers: On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to roll dough into a log 1 inch wide. Cut the log in thirds. Pinch off (or cut) each log into 12 equal pieces. Working in batches on a generously floured surface, gently flatten each piece with your palm. Grasp the dowel (available at Asian markets or Home Depot) in your dominant hand and roll from the middle to the outside edge, rotating the dough with the opposite hand until you have a 3-inch disk, slightly thicker in the center.
4. To assemble and cook: Hold each wrapper in your non-dominant hand and with your other hand use a dinner knife to spread about a tablespoon of filling into the middle. Fold the wrapper so the edges meet. Press edges to seal and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings. Boil 5 minutes, then strain. Serve with a soy-based dipping sauce.