I love exploring different cultures through food, and cooking at home is a way to stay in touch with my own. One of the first dishes I learned from Mom was dumplings. They’re ubiquitous in Asian cuisine, and traditionally eaten on Chinese New Year as they symbolize wealth and prosperity. I wouldn’t mind a little good fortune, but more importantly these remind me of family. I have the fondest childhood memories of perching around a table with my extended family, in a dumpling assembly line. My work product was easy to identify – they were always the most deformed…err, creative shapes.
I’ve received many requests via Instagram to post recipes, so am sharing this today in honor of Lunar New Year. I had an amazing time celebrating the holiday in Canton two years ago (see post), and will just be enjoying some home cooking today.
I love this dish as it’s adaptable for vegetarians (see example veggie recipe) and other dietary preferences. I make these for friends, potlucks, you name it. It’s simple enough for beginners, and easy to make extras with and freeze. The most difficult step is probably finding dumpling wrappers if you don’t have an Asian grocery store nearby.
I’ll start with the basic core ingredients for 1 batch of dumplings, which can be altered to your desires. As with most Chinese cooking – it’s not necessary to measure to a T. It’s also ok if the filling is under-seasoned, since dumplings will be dipped in a sauce once cooked.
Basic dumpling recipe:
– 1 package of dumpling skins/wrappers.*
– 1 lb ground meat.**
– 1 packed cup of veggies chopped into small (~ half inch) pieces.***
– 2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce or 2 teaspoons salt
– 2 tablespoons sesame oil
– 1 tablespoon corn or tapioca starch sprinkled into the filling, to bind it together
See how short the list is? Easy peasy. Some notes:
* Dumpling skins are found at Asian grocery stores either refrigerated or frozen, or you can be ambitious and make your own. I prefer the refrigerated white, round wrappers. Other varieties include yellow “Hong Kong” style which is super thin and more suited for steamed dim sum, or square shapes, which are for wontons.
** You can use ground pork which is traditional, or healthier ground turkey/chicken but it may come out less juicy. In the photo above I was experimenting with a piece of lean pork ground up by the butcher, but it tasted too dry.
*** You can adjust the meat : veggie ratio per your liking. For veggies, traditional dumpling fillings use either napa cabbage or garlic chive, which is my favorite by far. Garlic chives, as shown in the above photo, look like long blades of grass similar to a cross between scallions and leeks. They have wonderful garlic-y flavor starting at the white roots and throughout the blade. I’ve only been able to find these at Asian grocery stores.
– Peeled and de-veined shrimp, cut into quarters (however much shrimp you use, decrease the amount of ground meat by that amount)
– Chopped shitake mushrooms (either fresh or rehydrated dried ones), bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, or scallions (I only use scallions if I don’t already have garlic chive as the veggie)
– Minced ginger or garlic
– Fish sauce
– White pepper
My favorite combo is simply shrimp and pork, with garlic chive, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, sesame oil and starch. Delish! I’ve experimented with lots of optional add-ins and didn’t find them to be worth the extra effort.
Filling directions: Mix all filling ingredients together in a large bowl. This can be done up to a day ahead of time and stored covered in the fridge.
Wrapping directions: Prepare a small bowl of warm water. This will be your wrapping “glue.”
To avoid running out of either filling or wrappers, I start by splitting my wrapper into quarters and also roughly segmenting the filling into the same. Keep the pile of unused wrappers covered, so they don’t dry out.
1. Put a wrapper in the palm of your hand and 1 spoonful of filling in the center.
2. Dab a finger on your other hand in the warm water, and “draw” the water liberally around the outer circumference of the wrapper.
3. Pinch the top and bottom centers together
4. Pinch together the lower right corner with your thumb and index finger.
5. Keeping your hand and thumb in place, use your index finger to fold down the bubble of skin between the two pinches made in steps 3 and 4.
6. Press firmly.
7 – 8. Repeat the same process on the other side
9 – 10. Give your dumpling a few last pinches between your thumb and index finger to make sure it doesn’t come apart. Use more water as glue if necessary.
Freezing directions: Put the entire cookie sheet or pan (lined with foil and lightly floured) of un-cooked dumplings into the freezer. Let freeze on cookie sheet until they’re semi-hard, then transfer into zip-loc bags. This is to prevent them from sticking into 1 big lump.
Cooking directions: You can either boil or pan-fry these as potstickers. Boiling fresh or frozen dumplings is easy and healthy – cook these in a large boiling pot of water until they float to the surface for 5-8 minutes, then strain.
Pan-frying is tastier in my opinion but has a few steps:
1) Coat bottom of a pan with vegetable oil. Heat on medium high until oil is hot.
2) Place dumplings in one by one so that they “sit” nicely upright in the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the bottoms start getting golden brown.
3) Pour water into the hot pan (will result in a loud sizzle!) until water level reaches ~1/4 of the way up the sides of the dumplings. Turn heat
down to medium, and cover pan to let the dumplings steam.
4) Once the water is almost evaporated, remove lid to let the dumplings finish cooking and the bottoms finish browning. Cook uncovered until the water is gone and the bottoms become crisp (pick one up to check).
For those who celebrate – wishing you and your families a happy Lunar New Year! What have/will you be eating?