Dumplings: meat-filled thin-skinned flour packets.
It’s versatile dish which contains anything edible. Sometimes it could be pork crushed with chives, chopped liver, or shredded shrimp. Perhaps a little donkey for richness. Or salted egg yolk and foie gras mashed into a mellifluous bundle.
The packets are boiled and served with a side of garlicky sauce spiced with chilli oil. There’s also its fried cousin (Gayoza, Pot-stickers; all the same things) – crunchy on the outside but just as flavourful on the inside.
The dumplings won’t win points for looks. In fact, it borders on obscenity with more than passing resemblances to blanched-white shrivelled testicles.
But this common (even peasant) fare has never been about looks. It’s about how the ingredients fit together in an oh-so Q skin, and how they explode upon bite to linger on the palate.
There are easily a hundred different variations. Each one as different as night is to day. Ask yourself: “Do you have time and stomach space to try them all?”
Taste notes: Salty, like eating a raddish-less version of Teochew Kway with less pepper.
Taste notes: Rich. It can simply overpower a fragile palate. Best with whisky or stronger alcohols.
Taste notes: Like a fish out of the sea that’s popped wriggling and alive down your throat.
Tian Jin Bai Jiao Yuan (Tianjin 100 dumplings)
Add: Xin Wenhua Jie 12A, Beijing, China