Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Litle Chinese Dumplings or Pot Stickers

I was watching an episode of The Chew last week, with Danielle Chang. Until watching that show, I had never heard of or seen Danielle Chang, so I wasn't initially paying close attention. So when she started making Chinese Dumplings, I missed the beginning of what was happening. However, once the ingredients started going together, I got interested. The mixture sounded good, and the dumplings didn't seem too difficult to make. 

I went online to get the recipe. 

Chinese Dumplings or Pot-Stickers
Chinese Dumplings or Pot-Stickers
And then, I searched around for other recipes for Chinese Dumplings, only to find that the type Chang made, called Jiaozi or Jiao Zi, had pretty much the same mixture for the filling no matter where I looked. Hmmm. There were some few places that used no meat and there were a couple that used shrimp or a combination of pork and shrimp. Other slight variations used the addition of one or all of water chestnuts, egg white, cornstarch and/or dried (reconstituted) shiitake mushrooms. 

While the main ingredients of Napa cabbage, ground pork, scallions, garlic chives, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and Asian sesame oil were in just about every recipe I saw, only the amounts varied. On reading Chang's recipe from The Chew website, I immediately felt that more ginger and Asian sesame oil would suit me better, and the fact I had no access to garlic chives meant I would use more regular garlic and more scallions. So I had already changed the recipe in my mind before ever sitting to create something of my own. I felt that the addition of some shiitake mushrooms and an egg white, along with a little dash of cornstarch and some water chestnuts would be nice. Ultimately, I am not sure that the water chestnuts made any real difference. I was expecting a tiny crunch, but never noticed that while eating, so I might just skip that ingredient next time.
Chinese Dumplings or Pot-Stickers
Chinese Dumplings or Pot-Stickers

There most certainly will be a next time! These things were fabulous. The recipe turned out 85 dumplings. We ate nearly 60 of them between the two of us. Admittedly, that was way too much. I would estimate that anywhere from 12 to 30 per person as a meal, depending on appetite, would constitute a meal. They were just so good, and we just kept marveling at how delicious they were - that we just couldn't stop. 

These particular dumplings can be made steamed, whether in a bamboo steamer or other steamer. They can be set into a pan with water and cooked or if the cooking continues until the water is gone and they are allowed to brown on the bottom, they are called pot stickers.  I chose the simplest method, making pot stickers. I think these would be great made in any of these methods, so it's entirely up to the individual.

These dumplings can be made in advance and frozen. Just dust them with cornstarch, most particularly on the bottoms, and set them on a baking sheet. Freeze them for about 1 hour, then place them into a zip-top baggie and freeze until needed. To cook them just use them straight from the freezer. They are small, so it doesn't take much more time to cook them through.

Folding these dumplings might put some people off. I know I was rather dreading that part. I found some videos in the internet and found this method to be very easy and quick. The ideal is to find round dumpling wrappers (wheat based, and about 3-inches in diameter), but if these are not available, just use won ton wrappers, which are square. It is important to press the water-moistened edges together very tightly so as to keep them from coming apart while cooking. That is probably the biggest and most important issue. The second most important is not to over-fill the dumplings because they can burst open while cooking. About 2 teaspoons of the filling is all that is needed per dumpling.

Test Dumpling
Test Dumpling
Once I finished with creating the first few dumplings, I made a test dumpling to see how they would hold up while cooking, and if they held together, and also how the dipping sauce would taste with them.  These came out great on all counts, so I proceeded with making the rest of them. I fully intended to eat some and freeze some, but that did not happen, so I will be making more soon.

One thing to note: for some reason, it is almost impossible to find plain ground pork in our town. Most ground pork meat comes already pre-seasoned with sausage seasonings. This is a bit frustrating, to be sure. What I usually do instead is cut some pork meat into small cubes and food process / pulse it until relatively fine, but not pasty. The food processor does not like to chop up fat, so my "ground" pork is always 100% lean. If you are using regular store-bought ground pork, with a high fat content, your outcome might be different from mine, though I cannot say in what way. 

Another thing I want to make clear: I used Kikkoman "light" soy sauce, with less sodium. I don't know if it was for this reason, or because I had added more ingredients, but I felt the mixture needed more salt, so I added 2 teaspoons to the original 3 teaspoons of less-sodium soy sauce for a total of 5 teaspoons. This is the only salt added to the recipe, so I felt it was not bad. Neither of us experienced any swelling after that meal, so I feel this worked well. If using regular soy sauce, you might need less. To determine how your mixture is seasoned, after mixing the ingredients together, use a couple of teaspoons to make a tiny patty and cook this little patty through in a fry pan. Once cooked, taste for flavor and season accordingly.

Chinese Dumplings or Pot-Stickers

makes about 85

Folded Dumplings ready to steam
Folded Dumplings ready to steam
1 pound round wheat dumpling wrappers

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound Napa Cabbage
8 scallions, or more if desired
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small can (8-ounce / 5 ounce dry weight) water chestnuts, minced

1 egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons Asian dark sesame oil

5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce 

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine), optional
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon thinly sliced scallions
1 small clove garlic, minced finely
1 teaspoon honey
1 - 2 teaspoons Asian dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
a few grinds of fresh black peppercorns

FILLING: Set the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and cover. Set aside to reconstitute for about 1/2 hour, while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Coarsely chop the Napa cabbage, then place it (in batches, if necessary) into the food processor and pulse until quite fine but not pureed. Pour the chopped cabbage into a kitchen towel over a strainer. Finish pulsing the remaining cabbage (if in batches) and add this to the towel over the strainer. Gather up the towel and squeeze the liquid from the cabbage until relatively dry. Turn out the cabbage into a large mixing bowl. 

If making your own "ground" pork, cut the 1/2 pound of fat-free pork into cubes. Place in food processor and process until it starts to form a ball. Do not over-process. Pour this into the bowl with the dry cabbage. 

Finely chop the scallions, including the green parts and add to the bowl with the minced garlic, grated ginger and water chestnuts. Remove the shiitake mushrooms from their soaking water and squeeze them to remove excess water. Cut off and discard stems which are very tough, then mince the mushroom caps. Add to the bowl. 

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until it is no longer gelatinous, but slightly frothy. Add int he cornstarch and whisk to blend. Add the dark sesame oil and low sodium soy sauce and whisk briefly to combine. Pour this mixture into the bowl. Stir with a spoon or mix with hands to distribute all the ingredients well. Use 2 teaspoons of filling per dumpling.

forming the dumplingsTo form dumplings, have the dumpling or won ton wrappers handy. Have a small bowl of water nearby. Take one dumpling wrapper in one hand. Place the 2 teaspoons of filling into the center. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with the water. Bring tow opposite sides up together and pinch tightly to seal. Poke one edge in towards the center, making two loops open at one edge. Hold the point in while sliding the two loops inwards and pressing them tightly together. See illustration, left. Repeat this procedure with the opposite edge. Ensure that all the edges are completely sealed shut. Set the dumpling aside and continue with remaining mixture and wrappers. At this point the dumplings may be frozen for later or steamed for immediate use.

TO STEAM: Heat a skillet with a large surface. Add in a little oil, so the dumplings will not stick. Add in about 1 cup of water and bring to boil. Lower heat and cover tightly. Allow them to cook until the liquid is all evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes. Once water is evaporated, the bottoms will be slightly browned. If water has not completely evaporated, remove lid and allow liquid to escape.

DIPPING SAUCE: Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve in small bowls for individual dipping.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.