Frozen jiaozi (速冻饺子) are some of the only packaged convenience food available in small town China. It’s nice to keep a bag in the freezer “just in case” since it’s not like I’ve got canned soup or boxes of mac ‘n’ cheese in the cupboard.
Though they’re convenient, not many of us foreigners have a lot of experience cooking them. Don’t worry, they’re quite simple. You just need to decide if you want them boiled (水饺), steamed (蒸饺), or pan-fried (煎饺).
Here are some instructions, translated from a package of 三全Sanquan brand frozen jiaozi.
Boiled Jiaozi 水饺
Do not thaw jiaozi. Remove packaging and place jiaozi in boiling water. Use the back of a spoon to gently stir the jiaozi so that they don’t stick to the pot. Cover and boil using medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, then uncover and boil for about 2 more minutes.
Steamed Jiaozi 蒸饺
Do not thaw jiaozi. Remove packaging, then place jiaozi in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam for approximately 12 minutes.
Fried Jiaozi 煎饺
Let jiaozi nearly thaw completely. Remove packaging. Add oil* to a skillet [flat-bottomed pan or frying pan]. When the oil is hot, place jiaozi in the pan. Fry [pan-fry] on medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add water* and cover. Cook on high heat for 4-6 minutes, until the water has cooked off. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the jiaozi are golden brown on the bottom.
*Note: in the Fried Jiaozi instructions above, the original Chinese calls for an “appropriate amount” of oil and water. I guess you are supposed to know what the appropriate amount is from years of watching your Mama make jiaozi in the kitchen. If you don’t have that in your life experience and don’t have a Chinese friend or househelper who can advise you, you can try starting with 3-4 Tbsp of each, then adjust next time you make them.
Here’s an alternate method for Boiled Jiaozi 水饺 (a local friend said this is how everyone she knows makes them):
Boil water in a pot and add frozen jiaozi. Wait until the water starts boiling again. Add cool/cold water. When the water starts boiling again and the jiaozi are all floating, they are ready.
If we’re really in a hurry, we eat jiaozi just plain, but of course they’re much better and more fun with dipping sauces!