Dumplings: A guideline
Several of my friends have noticed that on certain occasions, I make dumplings and have asked for the recipe. I’m sorry to report that I have no fixed recipe, as this is one of the few things I managed to pick up as far as cooking goes from my parents and grandparents and I make it up by eyeballing it (it was after I had left the house for college that I regrettably discovered that I had squandered an awful lot of learning opportunities as far as cooking chinese food goes – and I can tell you, cooking from a book does not yield results like grandma or dad made, that’s for certain)
In any case, as a late holiday gift, I am sharing with you my guideline for making dumplings (or potstickers, or gyoza or whatever you call these little pan fried meat dumplings).
For the dumplings:
– 1-2 lbs ground pork (either buy pre-ground or you can grind your own in a food processor out of a pork roast)
– garlic, minced – I like garlic, and have been known to put up to a half a head in the mix
– dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and minced – I also like mushrooms, so I tend to use a lot of mushrooms (I don’t know how many, maybe 10-12 large dried mushrooms? Unfortuntaley I’m currently out of mushrooms so I can’t dump them in my regular bowl to count)
– napa cabbage, minced or diced finely – 2-3 large leaves
– green onions/scallions – 1-2 whites and greens, sliced paper thin
– cornstarch, about 1 heaping tablespoon
– soy sauce, 1-2 tablespoons
– roasted sesame oil, 1-2 teaspoons
– black pepper
– 2 packs of thick gyoza wrappers
for the sauce:
– 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
– 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
– several slices of fresh ginger root
– soy sauce – 1/2 cup
– rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar, 2 T
– cayenne pepper or siracha to taste.
Prepare the dipping sauce by mixing all the ingredients into a small bowl and set aside. Give it a taste to adjust to your own preference – you may decide you want less soy or more vinegar – you can even dilute it a bit with some water.
Prepare the meat mixture: I usually set the mushrooms in a bowl with cold water in the morning of the day I am planning on making potstickers. If I forget, putting the mushrooms in a bowl with hot water will hydrate them fairly quickly. Make sure to squeeze them out before you mince them or you’ll wind up with a watery mess on your cutting board :). In a large bowl, I put the chopped napa cabbage, garlic, scallions, mushrooms and ground pork. I drizzle the top with soy sauce and sesame oil, sprinkle with pepper and then top with the cornstarch. Mix it all together well.
Fill the wrappers: Scoop a bit of filling into each of the wrappers, wet the edges with water and seal – I opt to pleat mine as I seal them, as I think it allows them to sit upright more easily.
To cook: Heat some oil in a large lidded frying pan or skillet. Once hot, put in a bunch of dumplings, being careful to not crowd them. I usually brown them on the bottom for a few minutes, then turn them on one side to brown, then flip them over to brown the last side (all with the lid off). After all sides have browned, I get them all upright in the pan again, throw in 40mL of water (that’s about 3T – I happen to have a graduated mini beaker in the kitchen which is why I know it’s 40 mL 😉 ) and slap the lid on quickly – this will finish the dumplings off in steam. Once the hissing has stopped and all the water has evaporated off, pull your cooked dumplings out of the pan, add a bit more oil and keep going til you’re done.
Serve with steamed edamame or some other veg and sides (I usually make hot and sour soup but that is even more by eyeball/taste than dumplings are) and don’t forget the dipping sauce!
A note on yield: this makes a fair number of dumplings – I’ve taken to freezing half the filling along with one packet of gyoza for dinner some other night – I don’t pre-fill and freeze because I find the wrappers take on too much moisture in the defrost process and become gummy. Just make sure things are fully defrosted in the fridge before you go to assemble 🙂 (I usually transfer the meat and wrappers to the fridge 24 hours in advance).