Yina Jia shares her traditional recipe for Chinese dumplings for Year of the

A family affair: Yina Jia makes her Chinese pork and spring onion dumplings with help from her husband, Ti Zhao, and three-year-old daughter, Mia. Picture: Pip Waller
A family affair: Yina Jia makes her Chinese pork and spring onion dumplings with help from her husband, Ti Zhao, and three-year-old daughter, Mia. Picture: Pip Waller

WHEN Yina Jia and her husband Ti Zhao first moved to Australia from China, they had no idea how to cook.

Having relocated from Hunan Province to Perth in 2016, Ms Jia said they didn't even know how to use a rice cooker.

She explained that in China, the emphasis was on parents cooking for their children.

"The adults prefer the kids to go and study to have a higher education while the parents cook," Ms Jia said.

"So when I first came here, I didn't know anything, but I was lucky because I lived with an Australian lady who helped teach me how to cook.

"I used to write down what she said step-by-step and that's how I learned.

"The first Chinese dish I cooked was stir fried tomato with eggs. It's very simple but I love it."

Thanks to the education of her Australian friend and the handy nature of a kitchen gizmo - the Thermomix - Ms Jia quickly learned to master Chinese cooking.

She shared with the Mail her recipe for Chinese dumplings, which she planned to re-create for Chinese New Year on the evening of January 31.

As she mixed water and flour for the dough, Mr Zhao and the couples' three-year-old daughter, Mia, quickly jumped in to help with much excitement to create the Chinese dish.

Production line: Mia cut the dough, Ti shaped it and then Yina added the filling and shaped the dumplings. Picture: Pip Waller

Production line: Mia cut the dough, Ti shaped it and then Yina added the filling and shaped the dumplings. Picture: Pip Waller

Like it was a routine, Mia knew exactly what drawer to open and where to find her own mini rolling pin and cutter for the dough.

The three worked in a production style line with Mia cutting the dough, Mr Zhao shaping it into circles and Ms Jia adding the filling.

Ms Jia said the dumplings were called 'jia ozi' in Chinese.

"The filling contains pork mince, spring onion, soy sauce, oyster sauce and an assortment of 13 Chinese spices from my home-town.

"But you can put whatever fillings in you want - sometimes we do pork with cabbage, beef with celery or lamb with carrots.

"Kids love them so it's easy to hide vegetables in them and they don't even know it's in there," Ms Jia laughed.

As she added the filling to the dough, Ms Jia carefully pressed the dough together into a traditional, dumpling shape.

She said her "way" of folding the dumplings wasn't as quick as her mother's.

"My mum's technique is way quicker - mine is a bit longer and more time consuming.

"At home, making dumplings is all about getting together with family.

"My dad would make the dough, my mum would mix the filling and then the kids and other adults would all get together to assemble the dumplings.

"Dumplings are also a great way to celebrate Chinese New Year."

To celebrate Chinese New Year on February 1, Ms Jia said it was tradition for family and friends to get together and enjoy dishes such as pork, fish and chicken.

For the Year of the Tiger in 2022, Ms Jia will be celebrating with friends, her daughter Mia and one-year-old son Sean as Mr Zhao will be working away.

"I'll be making dumplings, of course," Ms Jia said.

"We usually boil them after counting down, as a symbol of the new year.

"Sometimes we put a golden coin inside and whoever bites into one and finds the coin is special."

After the dumplings were assembled, Ms Jia placed them on a traditional, bamboo plate called a 'bi zi'.

Mr Zhao then poured boiling water into a pan on a medium heat.

Placing the dumplings in the water, Ms Jia explained the specific way that dumplings had to be cooked.

"Once the dumplings are in, you add cold water, boil them again and then add cold water.

"The third time you bring them to the boil, you know they're cooked.

"This process helps the filling cook through as the dough is cooked first."

Something I've learnt is that cooking isnt a hard thing, it's really enjoyable, and to have people come and enjoy our food - that's our happiness."

Yina Jia

As the dumplings cooked, Ms Jia reflected on her time in Australia and told the Mail how much she enjoyed living in Bunbury.

She notably mentioned the Australian comradery of helping your neighbours.

"The lifestyle here is very enjoyable and the people are very nice and friendly.

"In China, we live in apartments so it's hard to get to know others - you're not that close with your neighbours.

"Here, my neighbour Mona and her husband are very supportive and always help us out with Mia and Sean.

"One time when Ti was away Mia was upset in the middle of the night but I was feeding Sean, so Mona came to our front door in her pajamas to help me.

"After that we put a gate between our back yards so we could visit each other easier. I'm so grateful for them especially because my parents and Ti's parents can't come to Australia at the moment because of COVID."

To accompany the dumplings, Ms Jia served roasted peanuts and home made chili oil, made by herself and Mr Zhao.

Simple but delicious: To accompany the pork and spring onion dumplings were roasted peanuts with a homemade, chilli sauce. Picture: Pip Waller

Simple but delicious: To accompany the pork and spring onion dumplings were roasted peanuts with a homemade, chilli sauce. Picture: Pip Waller

Ms Jia said the thing she enjoyed most about cooking in Australia was sharing Chinese dishes with her Chinese friends, who like her when she first moved here, didn't know how to cook.

"What I've learnt from cooking is that it isn't a big, hard thing but it's really enjoyable.

"And to have people come here and enjoy our Chinese food - that's our happiness."

Ms Jia said when Mia grows up, she wants to be a chef and cook Chinese food just like her parents.

Do you know a local who loves to cook?

Send an email to editor@bunburymail.com.au.

This story Cooking with family: Yina Jia shares her dumpling recipe for Chinese New Year first appeared on Bunbury Mail.