Cook up a taste of Beijing with these winning recipes

As we cheer on Team USA in the 2022 games, chef, restaurateur and Beijing native Shirley Chung is joining TODAY Food to share some of her favorite ways to prepare dishes traditional to China’s capital.

The Ms. Chi Cafe owner and author of “Chinese Heritage Cooking from my American Kitchen,” takes us on a journey through her childhood with dishes like grilled lamb skewers and Beijing meat pies. Both are filled with memories and aromas that will transport home cooks to the streets of the Forbidden City.

Related: The James Beard Award-winning baker, restaurateur and cookbook author celebrates the Lunar New Year with savory dumplings and a chilled spicy steak.

Then, Chung demonstrates step by step how to make homemade dumplings with jiaozi wrappers. One version is made with a filling typical of Beijing, an umami-filled ground chicken. And the other is her own spin on shiitake-vegetable dumplings, made completely vegan by using edamame instead of egg.

Beijing Lamb Lollipop Chops by Shirley Chung

Grilled lamb skewers are my favorite Beijing street food. Every time I have on it reminds me of some of my best childhood memories sneaking out with my best friend. We’d use our weekly lunch money to buy as many as lamb skewers and race to finish eating them before our moms came home.

Beijing Meat Pies by Shirley Chung

The shape of each meat pie looks like the giant golden nail heads on the gates of the Forbidden City, which is why the dish gets its name, “Men-din-rou-bing,” which means “nail heads” in Chinese. I grew up living next to the Forbidden City, running around through the giant red gates and counting the gold nails as games. Eating meat pie as breakfast while walking to school and seeing sunlight shining on the golden roofs of the Forbidden City is reminiscent of a perfect Beijing morning.

Jiaozi With Chicken Filling by Shirley Chung

This is a traditional jiaozi recipe, the steamed dumplings that are iconic cuisine in Beijing and other parts of China and East Asia. Similar to the Japanese gyoza, these tender dumplings are filled with a fragrant ground dark meat chicken mixture. Staples of Chinese cooking, the fresh ginger, green onion, soy sauce and sesame oil, are all typical ways to bring forth a balance of vibrant flavor with simple ingredients. Putting the love into hand-making the jiaozi wrappers makes each one taste like Grandma’s.

Vegetable Dumplings by Shirley Chung

This is my take on traditional Asian flavors with a twist. The vegan filling, which is chock-full of earthy shitake mushrooms, hearty kale and onion, binds together with an edamame puree. This technique is more similar to making a ravioli filling, where the smooth ricotta cheese acts as a binder. Only these tender, plump jiaozi are teeming with flavors of my Beijing heritage.

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