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Dill Dumplings (Chinese) - Authentic? Regional?

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I happened to have lunch in a Chinese restaurant that offers dumplings with pork and dill (or pork and shrimp and dill). Having never tried them previously, I did, and learned that I don't like dill in my dumplings.

Anyway, I didn't hear any English spoken in the restaurant either by customers or staff so I'm pretty sure it's authentic to some region of China. But which?

Can anyone enlighten me on the history of dill dumplings? Since I don't normally see dill in Chinese food, what blending of cultures/peoples brought them together? And what other foods are special to the part of China that has dumplings with dill in them? (i.e., what else should I try at this restaurant?)

Please enlighten me.

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  1. Are you sure it was dill and not Chinese chives or gau choy? They are similar in appearance but not in taste.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KTinNYC

      I think it was dill. The characters on the Chinese side of the menu call it hui2 xiang1. (Incidentally followed by ha2 rou4 shui3 hiao3.) I guess that means it's fennel? Fennels leaves is certainly consistent with its appearance. The English side calls it dill. I still think it was dill--normally I'm pretty good at detecting dill--, though now there's a little nagging doubt in my mind.

      Nevertheless, even if it were fennel, part of my question remains. Is this local to a particular part of China? If so, what else is from that region?

    2. Check this thread out. They talk about dill dumplings there. But the dill mystery hasn't totally been resolved. One poster thinks it's fennel fronds. I'm thinking it's fennel fronds as the dumpling was called "hui xiang," which is fennel in pin-yin.

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/249860

      7 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        This one too, from Boston, where apparently it can be either and the Chinese don't distinguish sharply. (The restaurant that makes these here is Shandong.)
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/407337

        ETA: I like both; personally I don't find dill and fennel fronds all that different either (seeds or fennel bulbs, that's different).

        1. re: Aromatherapy

          Dill has a flavour that's quite distinct compared to fennel fronds. I've certainly seen some dumplings that used dill in a couple of Chinese places (mostly northern Chinese, I think). However, I can't say whether that is relatively indigenous to the region.

          1. re: Blueicus

            I've heard of lamb and cumin dumplings, which are commonly eaten in the Xinjiang province of China where the food is predominantly halal. Since cumin is commonly translated as "xiao hui xiang" (小茴香), could it be the "dill" in your dumplings?

            1. re: dreamsicle

              To my knowledge, Xiao hui xiang means fennel seeds. I've never heard of cumin translated as xiao hui xiang. How did that translation come about?

              ETA: I'm not Chinese and do not read, understand or speak Chinese. So please take my info with a grain of salt.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                According to the place where I had the dumplings one of the owners came from Shenyang, in northeast China. The dill was also referred to as 茴香, without the "small" character. It certainly tasted like dill and perhaps it was a Russian influence?

                1. re: Blueicus

                  Actually I've always thought that fennel is 茴香 as well (at least that is the case in Hong Kong where I'm from), but a few online sources seem to say otherwise, so I was a bit confused, sorry again. I'm more familiar with the translations on this page and hope it's more reliable: http://www.knowingfood.com/glossary/m...

                  But then again, even Chinese translations differ from region to region.

                  1. re: Blueicus

                    Dill entered China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) from Sumatra. Was mostly used then as a pickling spice.

        2. Just did a search for dill dumplings in Chinese and yes, it returns lots of results in Chinese. Apparently it's a northern Chinese dish, and not always made with meat inside.

          Interestingly, it doesn't look it's available outside of that one region as quite a few search results included people that were moved to tears when they found a restaurant that serve the dill dumplings. And yes, it is dill and not some other kind of herb.

          1. Growing up in Taiwan there was one "vegetable" i couldn't stomach - sauteed Dill. The first time I took a bite I must have spat it out, and that was a rare thing for little me who always ate everything. In Taiwanese it's calle "Hui Hiang-ah", a name I will always remember. (note the similarity to Hui Xiang, which is the Mandarin name for it.

            Fast forward 30 years, living in the US, I've had the occasional fish with a tiny bits of dill (by comparison to whole plate of sauteed dill!) and thought that it wasn't so bad. Then when the Northeastern Chinese dumpling places in Chinatown started to offer Dill and Pork dumplings, I took a chance and decided that I now LIKE it a lot.

            I don't know if people in Taiwan still eat such a large amount at a time of Dill as a vegetable, but at the time, we had it quite often at home. Just so you know that besides the Dill and Pork dumpling combo of the northern Chinese, some of us native Taiwanese also eat it.

            "...Since I don't normally see dill in Chinese food, what blending of cultures/peoples brought them together? And what other foods are special to the part of China that has dumplings with dill in them? (i.e., what else should I try at this restaurant?)...."

            You would probably also want to try the "Sour Napa with Pork" Dumplings. Even though some places will name them "Sour Cabbage with Pork', the Northern Chinese pickles the Napa Cabbage (as oppose to the round kind) in such a way as to resemble the taste of ...."Sauerkraut" ! Go figure.

            5 Replies
            1. re: HLing

              I thought Fennel seeds were one of the spices in Chinese Five Spice Powder(there are more than 5 spices). So to hear that its not available in other parts of China I found puzzling. I'm not sure where it is from but I wouldn't be surprised it was traded over the Silk Road with India or Persia.

              There is a province in China that is very famous for their pickling techniques. It is believed that white version of Kimchi was given to someone in Korea as a wedding gift. I don't remember the place off the top of my head.

              1. re: designerboy01

                Just tried them tonight at

                Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House, on 86-08 Whitney Ave in Elmhurst.

                I must say they are pretty good and have a strong flavor of dill. Its definitely not Chinese chives. They sell them frozen if you want to take them back home. The woman there was very friendly and spoke English. The place was packed and I had to wait for a seat during dinner time.

              2. re: HLing

                Thanks for the information, HLing. I just wanted to add that I've had dumplings (at Dragon Mark in San Gabriel) that were filled with 100% dill. Like, you bite into the dumpling, and it's just stuffed with dill, all the way through. I think it's great, but I LOVE dill.

                1. re: Sister Y

                  Thank you for this thread. a couple months ago I bough a package of herb seeds in Chinatown marked Chives (Herb Small Fennel) and have been scrahting my head since then as to what they were. The seed smelled a little like caraway and the picture on packet showed something wispy but I knew of new chinese herb that corressponed to what was shown. But I just compare the chiense charcters you listed to those on the pack and they match. thank you.

                  1. re: Sister Y

                    Sister Y, During my 2 months stay in San Gabriel Valley end of 2006 I didn't happen upon Dragon Mark otherwise i would have tried them. i wonder, are the dumplings there also boiled, and shaped more like a ball than a crescent?

                2. Just a note that I was just as surprised when I ran into dill in a Vietnamese dish: cha ca. Now I want some Chinese dill dumplings!

                  Dill thrives in cooler climates, which is why most Americans associate it with Northern Europe, but there's no reason why it couldn't be grown in more northern and/or mountinous parts of Asia.

                  1. I was recently in Tianjin (port city of Beijing) & we had beef/dill dumplings in a dumpling restuarant. It was definitely dill. My Chinese friends speak English so I knew what I was eating. I believe it is a Russian influence. My background is Slavic and we make baked buns stuffed with a beef/dill/egg mixture (piroshski).The filling has a similar flavor. Remember the Russians have filled dumplings also, pilmeni. I apologize if my spelling is incorrect, we just eat these foods in our family, I can't say I've seen the words written down.

                    1. Another unexpected but delicious Chinese dumpling umplin* is watercress. Sun Dou carries frozen pork and watercress dumplings by the fifty. They have become my overall favorite, beating out the former champ, pork and chive in a first-round knockout.

                      * "umplin" is an ad hoc coinage for "stuff inside a dumpling"

                      1. I am currently in Vientiane, Laos, yesterday we ate at a dumpling house run by a lady originally from China. She had the most wonderful pork and dill dumplings! They were so good I was trying to locate a recipie when I came across this post. They are definatley authentic Chinese although I am not sure what part of China. They are really, really good!

                        1. I love Hui Xiang dumplings! My family is from Beijing and it is a really common filling for bingzi and dumplings, sometimes with pork and sometimes with scrambled egg. The version that I am thinking about isn't dill though-- the flavor is more licoricey than dill, but appearance wise, Hui Xiang is almost identical to Dill. When I crave those dumplings in the states I make them with fennel fronds, which have an almost identical flavor. In China the hui xiang sold have no fennel bulb, so I'm guessing it's a different plant? They call it "Anise"

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lycheefloat

                            Lycheefloat, fennel is often called anise, although it isn't exactly the same.

                            However, fennel does come in two varieties: with and without a tender basal 'bulb'. These are just two different strains of the same thing. (One has been developed as a vegetable, the other is really just for using the fronds and seeds as flavourings.

                          2. Yesterday went (in Chengdu) to buy raw dill to make a potato salad. There was 茴香 (hui xiang), fennel fronds, also in the store and I could not tell the difference between them by sight, but the dill was labelled 莳萝 (shi2luo2) and is most definitely dill.