Christmas with Chinese characteristics

The Financial Times this weekend has published one of my articles, about how most of my Christmas recipes have been infiltrated by Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques. Even that archetypal English staple, mince pies – for years now, I have made them in the shape of Chinese jiaozi dumplings. If you follow this link to the FT website, you will be able to see some lovely colour photographs of a salad made with leftover turkey and some jiaozi mince pies. Otherwise, here are the basic recipes:

Chinese mince pie dumplings
In the photographs you will see two different kinds of mince pie dumpling. The plainer kind is wrapped exactly like a typical northern Chinese jiaozi, with one side of the wrapper pleated. The other kind is a ‘cockscomb’ dumpling, where the edges are pinched together into a frilly edge.  The easiest way to learn to wrap them is to ask a Chinese friend to show you (or perhaps I should put a little video up here on my blog?)

300g plain flour, with some extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
One egg, beaten
One jar of mincemeat


  1. Set the oven to 190 degrees centigrade (375 degrees F)
  2. Stir the salt into the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (I like to do this by hand, which takes about five minutes, but you can also use a food processor to save time). Add just enough cold water to bind the mixture into a ball of dough. Wrap in greaseproof paper and leave in the fridge for half an hour or so.
  3. Roll out the pastry fairly thinly on a lightly floured surface. Cut out rounds with a 3” (7.5 cm) biscuit cutter. Place a round in the palm of one hand, add a scant teaspoon of mincemeat, and then draw the opposite edges of the circle together and pleat to make a Chinese dumpling.
  4. Place on a buttered or non-stick baking sheet. Brush the finished dumplings with beaten egg, prick each once with a fork, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes about 40 mince pie dumplings

Sichuanese turkey salad
The recipe below was concocted during the photoshoot for my FT article, with the help of the photographer, who was enlisted as a food-taster. Don’t feel bound by the exact measurements: mix up your sauce like a vinaigrette, to taste. You might like to add some crushed garlic instead of Sichuan pepper, or to vary the proportions of soy sauce and vinegar. If the meat is a little dry, you can dilute the sauce with a couple of tablespoonfuls of turkey stock.

350g leftover turkey meat
300g cucumber
4 spring onions
A little salt
For the sauce:
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
4-5 tbsp chilli oil, with sediment*
1/2 – 1 tsp ground, roasted Sichuan pepper (optional)


  1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scrape out and discard the pulpy centre, and then cut the flesh into thin strips. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave for about half an hour to draw out some of its water.
  2. Cut the turkey meat into slices and then slivers, or tear it into strips with your fingers. Sprinkle with just a little salt, and mix well. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well
  4. Just before serving, put the turkey into a deep bowl. Drain and squeeze the cucumber, and add it to the turkey with the spring onions. Give the sauce a stir, pour it over the turkey and toss everything throroughly together. Pile up on a more elegant dish if desired, and then serve.

Serves 2-4 people, with bread and a couple of other salady dishes

*I make my own chilli oil by heating 550ml groundnut oil to about 200 degrees centigrade, then allowing it to cool to 130 degrees C and pouring it over 100g ground Korean chillis in a heatproof container. The Korean chillies are mild: if you use bought chilli oil that is very hot, you will want to use much less in your sauces.

N.B. the sauce is a variation on one of the classic Sichuanese sauces you can find in the appetisers/cold dishes chapter of my Sichuan Cookery book (a.k.a. Land of Plenty). Any of these sauces can be used to dress leftovers from a roast Turkey or chicken.

3 Responses to “Christmas with Chinese characteristics”

  1. kattebelletje

    So happy to find out you have a website and blog now! I myself was a student in China in the 80s and have been trying since to recreate all the wonderful dishes I’ve had… your books have been a great help. Now I own them all and love them!
    About folding Chinese jiaozi: I’ve put up a short clip on YouTube with the Northern folding technique here:

  2. admin

    Thanks so much for posting that clip – I hope other readers will find it useful. And it’s very interesting as your method is a little different from mine! I start from one end and go to the other, pleating the back edge towards the forward one.
    Yes, I’m going to have to get a webcam!


  3. kattebelletje

    Fuchsia, how funny! My Japanese sister in law also folds jiaozi from one side to the other. Most digital cameras have a video clip option, so if you make only short clips a camera is fine!

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