These Fried Sweet Peanut Dumplings, called Gok Zai (角仔) or Yau Gok (油角) in Cantonese, are a Cantonese treat most often made to enjoy during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. The simple filling of toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, shredded coconut and sugar is crunchy, fragrant and nutty – a classic combination that tastes so nostalgic. Be sure to make your Gok Zai as plump as you can. Their appearance is meant to resemble a Chinese gold ingot, but I’ve always thought they look like little plump coin purses – the fuller, the better, for a prosperous new year!
Make the dough: Sift flour into large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Crack egg into the well. While whisking the egg with chopsticks or a fork, drizzle oil in mostly into the center. Switching to using your hand, start bringing the flour into the mixture while mixing and kneading with your fingers, stopping to add water by the tablespoonful as you go. You may not need all the water – add just enough until a pliable dough is formed, the water is absorbed by the flour and there are minimal dry flour bits remaining at the bottom of the bowl. Roll dough into a ball. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat a vessel you will use later to fry dumplings over medium-low heat. Once hot, add peanuts and dry toast until fragrant, slightly darker in colour and shiny from natural oils released – about 3 minutes. Set aside on baking sheet to cool. Next, dry toast sesame seeds until fragrant and slightly darker in colour – about a minute. Set aside in a medium bowl. Finally, place shredded coconuts to dry toast but only about 5 seconds to avoid burning. Add to bowl with sesame seeds. Once peanuts are cooled, place in food processor and pulse until they are a crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs, making sure not to take it too far that it becomes peanut butter! (You may also chop the peanuts with a knife or place them inside a ziptop bag and crush them with a rolling pin.) Add crushed peanuts into the bowl with sesame seeds and coconut. Add sugar and mix well.
Roll and cut out dumpling wrappers: Roll dough thinly to about 1/16-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or glass), cut as many wrappers as you can. This recipe should yield 28-30 wrappers if you re-roll the dough scraps. Roll scraps into a ball, rest again and roll out to cut more wrappers. Keep wrappers covered with kitchen towel to prevent drying out throughout the process.
Assemble the dumplings: Place 2 teaspoons filling in the centre of wrapper, making sure to leave a ¼-inch perimeter all around. With your index finger, dab a little water along half the circle. Starting at one end, start pinching along the perimeter to create a half moon. (Tip: once you have a pinched end, hold that end slightly lower and give the filling small shake here and there to shift it into the center of the dumpling while you continue to seal the rest). Give the entire edge a firm pinch to create a flattened edge about ¼-inch thick. Traditionally, these fried sweet peanut dumplings are given a signature pleat which I think of as a “rolled pleat”. Starting at one end, curl a small bit of edge up towards the filling, shift half a finger width to the right and pinch to secure the pleat. By shifting slightly to the right before pinching, a lovely rolled pleat is created. Repeat all the way to the other end, pinching the end to close. Place dumpling on tray and cover with tea towel to prevent drying. Form remaining dumplings. If you re-roll the dough scraps, you should be able to use most of the filling up.
Fry the dumplings: Heat oil in pot over medium heat until it is about 315°F or when a dry wooden chopstick inserted in the center shows oil bubbles ascending up its sides. Carefully lower dumplings into hot oil. You may need to fry them in 2-3 batches. Lower heat right away to medium-low to maintain steady temperature. Move and flip the dumplings frequently while they fry. After 4-5 minutes or once dumplings have taken on pale yellow colour, increase heat to medium-high (watch that the heat doesn’t exceed 350°F or so – lower heat as needed) and continue to fry another 2 minutes or whenever they are golden brown. Lift them out with a colander and drain on a paper towel lined-dish. If deep frying in batches, make sure to use a fine-mesh utensil to lift out any remnants from the first batch otherwise these bits may burn quickly. Proceed with remaining dumplings.
Serve fresh and crunchy! Keep cooled peanut dumplings in a tightly-sealed container for 1-2 weeks to enjoy at room temperature.