chinese dumplings

As soon as I started this blog, I knew that this was one of the recipes I had to post as soon as possible.  It’s imperfect in this incarnation because it is without photos (which will hopefully be remedied soon), but this is such a favorite recipe of mine.

Handsome and I make these dumplings once every couple of months.  It’s a chance for us to laugh, make a bit of a mess, use every pot in the house, watch a movie, and connect with each other.  We are totally focused on this activity; there is not a lot of room for worry when you’re sealing about a hundred tiny little dumplings.  And the finished, pre-cooked product is so satisfying to look at. Plates and plates of sealed cream-colored pillows of deliciousness.

It isn’t just the food, or the laughing, or the movie.  It’s the whole evening.  On dumpling night, Handsome and I work together to make a meal.  We tease each other.  We compliment each other.  We fall in love all over again.  And then we get to eat dumplings for daaaaaaaays because we have so many leftovers.

So that’s a lot of weight for dumpling night to carry at my house, and I can’t promise that these dumplings will lead you to love or happiness.  I can promise, though, that they will satisfy you and make you happy.  They are so worth the effort.

Disclaimer:  There are lots and lots of authentic, wonderful recipes for Chinese dumplings in the world with far different, and far fewer, ingredients.  I make no claims to the authenticity of this recipe.  For example, a lot of recipes use cabbage, not mushrooms.  Or bean sprouts.  I like mushrooms.

Another disclaimer: This recipe takes a long time.  A really long time.  Working with raw pork.  It’s best to do this while watching a movie or as the prelude to a party– invite some buds over, have some beers, and wrap dumplings!  Then you cook them and eat them, and everyone forgets about the forced labor.

A final disclaimer: I don’t make my own gyoza skins.  I buy them.  I would love to make my own skins.  So far, though, every time I make these dumplings I am daunted by how long I know that filling and wrapping them will take, and it just feels like a lot of work.  Someday, I will make my own wrappers and let you know how it works.

You will need:
1 pound ground pork
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (add more garlic if you like it. I do.)
2 packages mushrooms, any kind, chopped finely
4-6 scallions, chopped finely
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce
2-3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp. black vinegar
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
2-3 tsp. sambal
2 packages gyoza skins (appx. 50 skins each)

If your gyoza skins are frozen, thaw them.

Combine all ingredients except the skins in a bowl.  For the soy sauce, rice vinegar, black vinegar, sesame oil, sambal, salt, and pepper, add these to taste.  I have given measurements, but use more or less depending on your preference.  (I happen to like lots of seasoning.) Make sure all of the ingredients are mixed well.

To prepare the dumplings, take the gyoza skin/ dumpling wrapper in your hand.  Dip the tip of your finger in water and wet the edge of the wrapper.  Place a small teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper.  Fold the wrapper in half, pinch the top well, and pleat the sides of the wrapper until the wrapper is sealed.  Use Real Butter has a great tutorial (and a different recipe) for how to seal dumplings, complete with a photo illustration.  As your plate of folded and sealed dumplings increases, allow yourself to bask in the glow of a job well done.

Take breaks once in a while to refrigerate the filling if you feel you need to. It is raw pork, after all.

There are several different ways to cook these dumplings.  To steam them, bring a pot of water to a boil, place a bamboo steamer basket in the pot, and line it with lettuce leaves.  Place the dumplings on the lettuce leaves (which keep them from sticking to the bamboo), cover the basket, and leave until they are done. (Check for doneness.)

To pan-fry them (to make potstickers, in other words), place the dumplings bottom-down in a nonstick skillet on med-high heat.  When the bottoms are brown, quickly pour water into the skillet and cover.  Cook until the water is gone and the dumplings have dried out a little.  (Again, see the Use Real Butter post.  It’s excellent.)

I have also had tasty success baking the dumplings.  Preheat the oven to ~375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drizzle it with a little vegetable oil.  Place the dumplings on the pan, bottoms down, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.  The bottoms will be crisp and brown, the tops dry but still pale, and the centers hot when they are done.  It sounds a little weird, but it’s actually quite tasty.

My favorite way to have these, and the most unhealthy, is to deep-fry them.  Heat vegetable oil in a pot on the stove.  When the oil is hot, drop some dumplings in and fry them (it helps with the spattering to fry them with the pan covered, and also helps keep the oil hot) until they are golden brown.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Serve with the Chinese Dipping Sauce or with your favorite sauce and a side of stir-fried veggies.

***These also freeze wonderfully.  To freeze, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the dumplings, bottoms down and not touching, on the cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until the skins are frozen well.  Place all dumplings then in a sealed, freezer-safe container.  Keeps for a long time.  All preparation methods can be done with the dumplings still frozen and unthawed. In fact, thawing them makes the dough sticky and doesn’t work very well.


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