January 27th, 2017 is the eve of Chinese New Year, the year of the Rooster. In honor of this auspicious day, I decided to learn how to make fried dumplings. Dumplings are traditionally served during Chinese New Year, and are a symbol for money and wealth. The legend is, the more dumplings one eats on Chinese New Year, the more wealth they will gain during the coming year (www.chinahighlights.com).
I love fried dumplings and have always wanted to learn how to make them. However, cooking a new dish with unfamiliar techniques and ingredients can be a risky endeavor. It is difficult to gauge how much time the recipe will take to cook, as well as determine how it will turn out. For the most part, I depend on my past experiences and resources to plow through any unknown territory. Fortunately, I have had more success than failures to keep my confidence up and my curiosity growing. Nonetheless, if I do mess up, the reason can usually be determined for a productive do-over.
My first decision was to buy pre made wonton wrappers and not make everything from scratch. This might be considered cheating by some, but I felt it was a wise idea to pare down the whole procedure the first time around. It appears that making dumpling dough from scratch seems easy enough, but will require a third recipe, additional time, and a special rolling-pin. Maybe next time I will tackle the dough.
The wrappers are available at most grocery stores in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Be advised, the wrappers come in different shapes and sizes. You can use either the wonton wrappers shaped as squares or circles, depending on what your store has available.
After researching several recipes, I decided upon using Mark Bittman’s recipe from his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World as my base. Cooking with his recipes are like having a friend by your side, and teaching you along the way. The recipe for the pork filling is similar to most of the recipes I researched. However, his cooking technique proved to have the most consistent results, and created light and moist dumplings with a good sear.
The only downside to making homemade dumplings is, it is time consuming. The whole process is fairly simple, but will require your undivided attention. Overall, it took about 30-40 minutes to assemble 40 plus dumplings. This is because they need to be assembled one at a time in order for the dumplings to not dry out. Even though making dumplings is labor intensive, it can easily be turned into a fun activity to do with family or friends.
It has been my experience that children love to help with the dinner preparations. I believe the more children are involved in making the food they eat, the more likely they will be open-minded to eating different foods. Some children enjoy doing detailed tasks that is perfect for little hands and fingers. Pleating, pinching and forming dumplings is a great activity that children will enjoy.
If you do decide to make dumplings as a family activity, please be careful with children handling raw meat. You can designate mixing the filling as the adult job, or have the children wear latex gloves. Additionally, cooking the dumplings produces a lot of steam, so children should be kept away from the stove.
Each dumpling resembled a cute little boat. I was reminded of other images as well like an ancient Asian crown, a Chinese Junk, and The Flying Nun. So, who knows where your imagination will take you while you fold and pleat the time away.
Fortunately, my first try at making fried dumplings was a huge success and a great family treat. By choosing to make fried dumplings instead of buy them, I turned an ordinary dinner into a festive occasion. These fried dumplings are light, flavorful, and festive. The interaction between dunking and eating created additional activity, which spurred more socializing and a fun atmosphere. I hope you have an occasion to make dumplings for you and your family and please let me know how they turn out.
What new food adventure have you tried recently? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Happy Chinese New Year. May good health and prosperity be your good fortune this year of The Rooster.
Serving Size: 4 dumplings per person as an appetizer
Pork fried dumplings are fun to make and create a festive dining experience. Divide the assembly of the dumplings between you and loved ones, then the work becomes a shared activity all will enjoy. Serve with a soy dipping sauce flavored with toasted sesame oil, ginger, lime zest and sriracha. Fried dumplings are at their best when served immediately after they are made.
The dumplings and dipping sauce can be easily adapted to suit your taste. You can substitute the ground pork with ground turkey, shrimp, ground lamb, or vegetables with tofu. I like a little heat and sweetness in my dipping sauce, but you can add or omit whatever you prefer. Thai chili paste can substitute for the sriracha, or omit it all together. Citrus is nice in the dipping sauce, like lime juice or zest. Sherry or rice wine, and honey are also good substitutes.
Fried dumplings can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap until you are ready to make them. They can also be frozen. Place the assembled dumplings on a rimmed sheet pan and place in the freezer. When the dumplings are frozen all the way through, remove them from the sheet pan and place in a zip lock freezer bag and return them to the freezer. They should keep frozen for 6 months.
This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for Wor Teep, Pot Stickers or Pan Fried Dumplings, in his cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World.
The cooking time is 10 minutes per batch of 10 to 12 dumplings. Allow more time if you are making more than one batch of fried dumplings.
For the Dumplings
½ lb ground pork
1 cup chopped cabbage, or bok choy, or leeks
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
¼ cup minced green onions (scallions)
2 garlic cloves, green germ removed, and minced
1 egg lightly beaten
1 Tb rice wine or Sherry
1 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tb toasted sesame oil
1 tsp granulated sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 package wonton wrappers
Peanut or neutral oil for frying
About 2 cups of chicken stock, vegetable stock or water (divided)
For the Dipping Sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Finely grated zest from ¼ of a lime
2 Tb reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tb rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp mirin or rice wine
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
A couple drops of sriracha sauce (optional)
1 tsp Water
Make the Dumplings
Combine the ground pork, chopped cabbage, chopped green onions, minced ginger, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, sherry, toasted sesame oil, sugar, Kosher salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.
Place the wonton wrappers on a plate then cover with a moist towel. Pick up one wonton wrapper and place it on your work surface with a pointed end towards you like a diamond shape. Moisten your finger tip and paint the top two edges of the wonton wrapper.
Fill 1 teaspoon* with the pork filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton wrapper in half to make a triangle. Press down on the edges and with your fingers, smooth the wrapper over the mound of filling to push out any air that is loitering around the filling. You want to make sure there are no air pockets inside the dumpling.
Pleat each dumpling by starting at one corner and fold over a small section to make a pleat. Press and seal. Slide your fingers up about a ¼ inch and pleat again. Continue to pleat the edges of the dumpling to have 3 pleats per side. The pleats will fold towards the center.
Place the dumpling on a sheet pan and cover with a clean and moist kitchen towel. Repeat until you have used up all of the pork filling. About 40 dumplings.
Cook the Dumplings
Place a 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium high. Lightly coat the pan with oil. Place the dumplings in the pan, pleated side up. Depending on the size of your pan you can fit 9-10 dumplings at a time. Cook the dumplings for 5 minutes, undisturbed. After 5 minutes add ½ cup chicken stock to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Cook covered for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes are up, take off the lid and cook the dumplings until the liquid is evaporated and the dumplings are nicely browned, about 3 – 4 minutes more.
Using a thin spatula gently remove the dumplings from the skillet, being careful to not rip the dumplings as you remove them from the pan. The dumplings will stick a little, hence the name pot stickers.
Put the dumplings on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with a ½ cup of water, scraping up any crusty bits. Dump out the water and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Repeat the cooking process until all the dumplings are cooked, making sure to clean the pan between each batch of dumplings.
Serve immediately with dipping sauce.
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed. Set aside on the counter until ready to serve. Serve in a small bowl for easy dipping. Makes a shy ¼ cup.
If you make dumplings with the round wrappers or from wrappers made at home, they will be larger and you will need to fill the dumplings with close to 2 teaspoons of filling. You will get 20 -24 dumplings depending on size of wrapper.