Without dumplings, is it really Chinese New Year? Could it be celebrated without an onslaught of fireworks, red envelopes filled with cash and a big steaming plate of dumplings? No…它不能!!!!
So, after 5 years or so of living in China, I finally asked a friend’s mother to come and teach me how to make them myself because if there is anything we laowai (foreigners) love, it’s always the ‘AMAZING dumplings’ that everyone raves on and on about.
Looking back on it, I wish I had taken notes during this lesson because the whole thing lasted only a couple of minutes. ‘Here is the pork, then we add ginger, some garlic, add some soy, here is a spoonful of magic’. She added everything by spoonfuls so quickly that the filling recipe still remains a mystery to me. As for the dumpling dough, things were a little simpler. ‘Here is flour, fluff it up with your hands, add water, knead and bam! Here is your dumpling wrapper! Fold like this!’. It was at this point that I gave up trying to learn anything and just became mesmerized at the speed and efficiency that was this Chinese mama’s way of concocting a feast out of thin air.
Since then, I’ve experimented in trying to make those very same delicious pork dumplings. I researched over and over again just what is the correct way to fold them up and spent many an hour covered in flour, rolling out the dough. After diligent work, I channeled all the laomas (Chinese Grandmothers) that have cooked before me and released my inner ayi (Auntie). Now, I am proud to say that these dumplings are indeed Chinese New Year worthy, even if they are made by a laowai.
700g (~25oz) ground pork (don’t go lean on the meat. Fattier pork means juicier dumplings. If the meat is too lean it might end up being grittier)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 cup (~150g) finely chopped scallions
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
600g (~5 cups) flour plus more for dusting
10 oz (295ml) water
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly add water and combine until dough forms a ball. Transfer to a floured flat surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until dough becomes elastic. Add more flour if needed to prevent sticking.
Dumpling assembly (See picture gallery above)
Take about a tablespoon of dough from the pastry ball, roll it into a round ball in the palm of your hand and then flatten it with a rolling pin to a thin pancake, circular in shape. Place a teaspoon or so of pork filling in the middle. Take the top and bottom edges of the dumpling wrapper and pinch together in the middle. Next go to the side and form a ‘W’ with the edge. Pinch together and pinch upward to the center. Repeat with the other side of the dumpling. When dumpling is sealed place on a floured plate, cutting board or baking sheet until all dumplings are assembled.
*If you don’t feel up for making the dumpling dough, no problem. You can buy pre-made wanton or dumpling wrappers from the supermarket and use these. They will however, need water to seal the edges together so make sure you have a small bowl of water nearby. However, I do recommend making the dumpling dough from scratch as they provide a better texture overall.
Dumplings can be very delicate and hence need a certain finesse to cook. I don’t recommend waiting too long to cook them as the dough can be soft, become sticky and tear easily. As soon as they are assembled, either cook them or freeze them for later use.
When cooking them, you can either steam them for boil in a low simmer. If boiling them, cook at a low simmer or boil, NEVER at a rolling boil as the dumplings are more likely to fall apart. They should sink to the bottom when raw and rise to the top when ready. If the dumplings have risen to the top of the water but you don’t feel they are ready yet, cook for 1-2 additional minutes and carefully remove them from the water.
Serve with black vinegar, Chinese chile oil, soy sauce or a whatever mixture you like best.