Family Dumplings/Wontons (jiao^ zi)

May 28, 2009

Feedback from roommate after tasting: 'D__ should marry you for these alone.'

Dipping sauce: this is worth making even for premade dumplings from the store. Super88 actually has pretty decent frozen pork wontons (their dumpling cousins are unfortunate, if I remember correctly, though).
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Sugar
  • Optional: black vinegar, chili sauce

Filling sauces/spices:
  • soy sauce: start out with 1 tbsp, preferable to be on the blander side since there's always the dipping sauce
  • sesame oil: 2 tbsp (but I really like sesame oil)
  • salt: 1 tsp
  • sugar: 1 tbsp
  • yellow cooking wine: a dash of this in the meat filling if you feel the need to get rid of the 'fishy' taste from meat (xing- wei\)
Meat filling:
  • 2 lb. ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • shrimp, peeled, de-veined, chopped
  • large bunch of chives (not one of those pansy little things of herbs from American grocery stores, you need to go to an Asian supermarket to get a large amount. See photos), rinsed and green part minced. You should find these in the refrigerated greens section.

Beat the eggs, then mix into pork. My grandma also said to stir in an additional 2 small bowls of water to make the meat tender, but when I did it this past weekend with just 1, the filling got really soupy.

Anyway, then mix in chives and shrimp until evenly distributed, plus sauces.

Vegetarian filling:
  • vermicelli noodles, soak until soft and then mince (these are tricky buggers)
  • scrambled eggs, mince further if needed
  • dried mushrooms (xiang- gu-), soak until soft and mince
  • napa cabbage (da\ bai/ cai\), soften leaves in boiling water, squeeze out some of the water but make sure it's still sticky, and then chop

Mix together, plus sauces.

Regardless of filling, make sure to make samples and test for taste so that you can go back and adjust filling as necessary before spending a lot of time making the dumplings.

Wrappers: need to get the from-scratch dumpling dough recipe. That results in a softer, more pliable wrapper that's much easier to make, but you need to spend additional time rolling out the dough and such. That's what young grandchildren are for.

But for from the supermarket, you can get round wrappers (for dumplings, to be boiled or pan-fried into potstickers with dipping sauce) or square wrappers (for wontons). We usually get the white ones, which these labels proclaim to be 'Shanghai-style,' but they only had 'Hong Kong-style' dumpling wrappers. You find these in the refrigerated/fresh noodles section, probably near where the tofu is.

There are probably videos on how to make the dumplings themselves. You need wrappers, filling, and a small bowl of water with a bit of starch in it, to seal the edges. Someday I may make a video of this process because it's weird.

Let's say you're actually done with it now, though. Two methods of cooking: boiling and pan-frying.

For boiling, throw the dumplings into boiling water. Let it come to a boil again, dump in some cold water to cool it off, and then once the dumplings are floating to the top, you're all done.

For pan-frying, using a non stick pan, spread or spray a little cooking oil to cover the bottom. Put dumplings in in a circle, starting from the outer side of the pan and going inward. Add water to about 1/2" high, cover the pan and let it cook for a about 5 min at medium heat.

Once the water has almost boiled off, use low heat and remove the cover. Let it cook for another few min at low heat until the bottom of the dumplings are golden brown. Move the pan around a little if needed so that the heat is distributed evenly to the entire bottom of the pan.

Scoop out dumplings to eat with dipping sauce, or put wontons in soup (well, you could make those directly in soup too).