Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chinese Dumplings

I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay one night last week. This particular episode featured Chinese dumplings. As I was watching, I said to myself, "You know, I can do that!" I was glued to the TV...I have a DVR, so I made sure to record the show, and replayed it about 3 times so I could write down all the ingredients.

I know I've told y'all before...I am sorely lacking in the Chinese cooking department, and I'm really trying to remedy that. I made dumplings with my mom all the time growing up, and I've always wanted to try making them myself. At one time, my mom would make the filling and the dumpling wrappers from scratch. Later on, she'd use the premade wrappers because it took far less time.

I realize this looks complicated and time-consuming, but it really isn't. If you're worried about folding the dumplings, I'll show you a really easy way to do it (or you can come to my house for a lesson :-). And the filling is only 7 ingredients, so don't be scared.

Break out those chopsticks...and let's make dumplings!

Chinese Dumplings

2 pounds ground pork (you can ask a butcher to grind some for you, or get it at an Asian market like I did. Whatever you do, don't buy the bulk pork breakfast sausage!)
1 package silken/soft tofu (don't worry, you won't even taste it)
1 package (4 ounces) flat Chinese chives (look for them at an Asian market or just use regular chives)
2 medium onions, finely diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (available in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 package (about 60 count) round dumpling wrappers
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Let's start with the filling. I had never heard of flat Chinese chives, but I had no trouble finding them at my local Asian market. They smell just like regular chives, but they're bigger and flat instead of small and round.

Chop the chives, along with the onions and garlic.

I used my microplane grater to grate the ginger. When I buy fresh ginger, I peel it, and stash it in the freezer so it keeps longer. Then I just grate what I need. It looks like a lot more that 3 tablespoons, but that's because it was frozen.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onions, flat chives, garlic, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper, and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Remove from the heat and set aside.

Drain the tofu in a colander and pat dry with a paper towel.

In a large bowl, combine the pork, tofu, vegetables, and hoisin sauce.

Mix together well with your hands, but do it gently, you don't want to overwork the pork. The tofu should be well incorporated (a few small bits here and there is fine).

Now we're ready to fill the wrappers. Take out your dumpling wrappers and let them come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. Once you open the package, cover them with a damp paper towel so they don't dry out.

Take one wrapper in your hand, or work surface. Use your index finger to brush the edges with a little of the beaten egg. Place a small spoonful of the filling in the middle. It looks like more than a tablespoon in the picture, but it's just because I took a close-up.

Different cultures fold their dumplings in different ways. This is the way my mom taught me. I can't really show you...but basically the front of the wrapper is pleated, and the back is left alone.

The egg wash keeps the filling sealed in. It is important to gently press out any excess air so the dumplings cook properly later on.

Here's another pic of a filled dumpling.

Now before you start panicking and think, "There's NO WAY I can do that," relax! You don't have to fold it this way. You can simply close the wrapper without any pleating at all, like this:

And if you want to try it this way, with 2 simple pleats, watch this video clip:

Line up the finished dumplings on a baking sheet.

At this point, you can freeze the dumplings. Make sure to leave a little space in between each one.

Pop the sheet into the freezer for 2-3 hours. Once they're frozen, transfer to a zip-top plastic storage bag for up to 3 months. They're ready to cook whenever you want to.

I ended up making 94 dumplings and it took me 2 days. I could have made them all at once, but I didn't want to totally neglect my chittlins. So I made 1/2 one day, and 1/2 the next, and froze nearly all of them. I filled wrappers for about 1 hour each day.

I am SO ready to eat! Let's cook some up!

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick skillet. Make sure to use your best non-stick skillet. These took time to make, so you don't want 'em to stick to the pan...that would not be good! When the oil is hot, place the dumplings in bottom side down and pleated/folded side up.

Brown for about 3-4 minutes...this is what they should look like.

Add 1/3 cup water to the pan, cover with a lid, and steam the dumplings for about 4-5 minutes, NO PEEKING! (The steam will cook the pork.)

Remove the lid and let them get crispy on the bottom again for about 4-5 minutes. Nearly all the water should have evaporated.

(*If you froze your dumplings, cook them directly from the freezer--no thawing is necessary. Add 2-3 extra minutes of steaming time so the pork cooks through).

While the dumplings are cooking, I made a very easy dipping sauce. All you need is soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil.

In a small dish, combine the 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.

When the dumplings are done, remove to a plate and let them cool for a few minutes before serving...these babies are hot!

My stomach was growling so bad by the time I sat down to eat...if anything had interrupted me at this point...oh my...I can't even imagine what I would have done (probably something highly uncharitable).

It took me exactly 11 bites to devour this plate, lol! I meant to make 12...

In our house, on the occasion I do make Chinese food, we use chopsticks. Here's some information
about chopsticks, just for fun :-). I will say proper etiquette concerning chopstick usage was important as a child in our mom was pretty strict about it. And if my grandma visited from Taiwan, you can bet we were all on our toes at the dinner table!

Even if you don't try these, I had a great time making and sharing them with you!

God bless your table tonight!


Alexis D. said...

Looks great Kim! Do you put them in the skillet frozen, or do you thaw them? Thanks for all the great recipes!!

Kimberly said...

You do not have to thaw them if they're frozen. Just put 'em right into the skillet.

Suzie said...

The dumplings look amazing and you make it look quite easy to prepare. Great pictures to show each step. I don't think the pleating looks hard and it's attractive. Are they similar to potstickers in preparation??

Kimberly said...

Potstickers are an Americanized I wouldn't know exactly...this is the only way I know to make dumplings. If you follow my cooking instructions and use a good-nonstick skillet, they shouln't "stick" at all.

Kate said...

Thank you Thank you! I've been wanting to make my own 3 year old loves them, and I'm tired of buying them at Trader Joes at 3 bucks for about 15 dumplings! I'm determined to make my own and freeze them. This was an awesome tutorial!