Hongyou Chaoshou Recipe

In a rather unassuming suburb of Chengdu is an unusual restaurant. In China, it’s not uncommon to find restaurants inside residential buildings (often operating illegally), but as you approach Ba Er Gan Haijiao Chaoshou, you realise there isn’t even a door. Climbing a makeshift staircase through an open window, inside you find a small but bustling restaurant housed in a regular apartment.

This is by no means a hidden gem- it’s very popular with locals. I am handed a slip of paper with a handwritten number on it and I wait my turn to order. They serve all the classics, but are most famous for their hongyou chaoshou (红油抄手), or red oil dumplings. ‘Chaoshou’ is a verb, meaning to fold your arms, but in Sichuan dialect it refers to these dumplings, a detail that becomes apparent when you see them in their raw state. Through some food anthropomorphism you can imagine a stubborn looking person sat with their
arms crossed.

Chaoshou differ from jiaozi in that they are always served in a soup or sauce- either chicken soup, hot and sour soup or, my favourite, chilli oil.

In Chengdu, as with noodles, portions are generally much smaller than Shanghai and Beijing. A bowl of chaoshou will typically contain a maximum of eight dumplings, whereas elsewhere it would be 12-15. The smaller size allows you to snack or try multiple dishes from a menu.

Unfortunately, the restaurant has now moved around the corner into more respectable premises, with a regular door.

TRY: Learn Michael Zee's recipes for Congyou Banmian and Sheng Jian Bao!

This recipe is from Zao Fan: Breakfast of China by Michael Zee. (Bloomsbury Publishing, Hardback, £26)

Ingredients for Hongyou Chaoshou

  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
  • 50ml water
  • 250g fatty minced pork (15% fat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 packet of square wonton wrappers

To serve

How to make Hongyou Chaoshou

  1. Put the spring onions, ginger and water into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, then pass through a sieve to remove any large pieces. Set aside.
  2. Put the pork, egg, cornflour, oyster sauce, if using, and soy sauce into a bowl and add a quarter of the ginger and onion liquid. Use your hand in a claw shape to mix the meat in one direction and one direction only. This will help whip the protein structure, creating a light and delicate texture. This process is called shang jin (上劲). Set a timer for 15 minutes and hand whip the meat until you have a smooth paste, every couple of minutes adding a little bit more of the ginger and onion liquid until it has all been absorbed. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. When you’re ready to assemble the dumplings, take a wrapper and place it in your hand in a diamond shape. Using chopsticks, place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle. Fold the diamond in half from the bottom up and press it closed tightly with your hands. Turn the dumpling so the top point is facing you. Take the left and the right point and cross them over each other tightly, pressing them together.
  4. Continue until you run out of filling or wrappers- any leftovers of either can be frozen.
  5. Put the serving ingredients, except the spring onion greens, into bowls.
  6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the dumplings. When the water comes back up to the boil, add a cup of cold tap water to cool the water. Bring the water back up to the boil and once the dumplings are floating, divide them between the bowls.
  7. Add a small splash of the cooking water to each to make a soup, then garnish with the spring onion greens.
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