Boiled Dumplings at the Juxiangyuan Restaurant in Ottawa
The Juxiangyuan Restaurant closed its doors in Ottawa some time ago, but during its all-too-brief existence I enjoyed some terrific dishes there. I was really looking forward to their Boiled Dumplings stuffed with Lamb as these are not widely available. Unfortunately, unlike many of the other great things I tried at that establishment, these were a bit disappointing.
Lamb is not terribly popular in much of China, and seems to be genuinely disliked by the Han Chinese, who represent the largest ethnic group. It is widely eaten in the furthest reaches Western China, where there is a sizeable Muslim population, and is also a favorite in the most Northerly Provinces.
Juxiangyuan featured some Cantonese dishes on their menu, but they specialized in mainly Northern Chinese cuisine, which is very probably why their dumpling specialty was Yang-rou Shui-jiao (羊肉水餃), which translates simply as Sheep (or Goat) meat Boiled Dumplings. Although Mutton theoretically could have been the main ingredient here, I have no doubt that it was the young Sheep meat, or Lamb, being used.
The dumplings themselves were formed, more or less, into the common Jiaozi pleated fold, but, being boiled, they took on the slightly swollen appearance that diminishes the distinct lines of the steamed variety. The wrapper, almost certainly a cold-water version of the Basic Dumpling Wrapper Dough, was not too thick, and had a nice al dente bite to it.
As for the filling, the meat was blended with a little scallion, and, I think, just a little dried chili. It was nicely mixed, with a good ‘springy’ texture to it but, unfortunately, the flavor was so bland that, really, it may have been any meat other than lamb. Had these been advertised as Pork Dumplings, I probably would have given these decent marks, but I was expecting the distinct, unique flavor of Lamb and I ended up being disappointed.