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 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 freeze for enjoying later.
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. My mom will usually wrap one dumpling and boil it for a taste test, then continue seasoning the filling if necessary.
Basic dumpling recipe:
– 1 package of dumpling skins/wrappers.*
– 1 lb ground meat**
– 1 packed cup of veggies chopped into small (~ quarter inch) pieces.***
– 2 to 3 tablespoons light soy sauce or 2 teaspoons salt; ideally a mix of the two
– 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
See how short the list is? Easy peasy. Some notes:
* Dumpling wrappers are found at Asian grocery stores either refrigerated or frozen, or you can be very ambitious and make your own. I prefer the refrigerated white, round wrappers. Other varieties include yellow “Hong Kong style” which are super thin and best for steamed dim sum, or square shapes which are for wontons.
** You can use ground pork which is traditional, or healthier ground turkey but less fat content = less juicy dumplings.
*** 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 small pieces (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
– Corn or tapioca starch sprinkled into the filling, to help bind it together
– Minced ginger or garlic
– Fish sauce
– White pepper
My favorite dumpling filling combo is simply shrimp and ground pork, with garlic chive, soy sauce, a little salt, and sesame oil. Delish!
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. Be sure to 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. Start with less filling if it’s your first time wrapping!
2. Dab a finger on your other hand in the warm water, and “draw” the water liberally around the outer circumference edge 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. I usually lift one up and tap the bottom to see if it’s getting crisp.
3) Pour cold water into the hot pan (will result in a loud sizzle & potentially some splatter!) 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 completely gone and the dumpling 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?