When I lived in Shanghai, I took part in more dumpling-making classes that I can count. The school PTO had a class, my friend had a dumpling making party at her home and we made them with our kids’ babysitter (to name a few of these sessions). Every Chinese New Year it was open season on yummy pasta pockets of goodness.
This year was no exception, even though my days in the ‘Hai are over. I really love teaching and helping people to learn how to make something that is new to them. About a week ago I had a get together with some of my favorite creatives: Amy Roth, Robin Chase and Sue von Brachel. Some stunning food photos were created that day, but more than that we had fun together, doing what we love. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?
Traditional Pork Dumplings
These traditional pork potstickers are a traditional way to ring in the Chinese New Year.
for the wrappers:
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- about 2 cups of water
for the filling:
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
- 3 green onions finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- green onion finely chopped
- soy sauce
- dark Chinese vinegar
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and water with a spoon. You may need to add a bit more or less water depending on humidity or other conditions. You want the dough to come together in a nice ball, but it will still look a little "ragged" at this point. Turn out onto a work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes, until fairly smooth and elastic. Place in a clean bowl, cover the surface of the dough with a damp paper towel, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. It is very important to let the dough rest for at least 1 hour at this point (up to 4-5 hours). While the dough is resting, prepare the dumpling filling.
Combine all the ingredients for the filling and mix very well, about 3 minutes. You want the protein in the meat to break down somewhat, so that the mixture is quite sticky. Cover and set aside until ready to fill the dumplings.
Once the dough has rested it will be nice and smooth and have a springy texture, almost like a marshmallow. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead again. Slice off about 1/5 of the dough, cover the rest and set aside (so that it does not dry out). Roll the piece of dough into a log, about 2 inches thick. Cut the log into smaller pieces, also about 2 inches thick. Working with one piece at a time, press each into a flat circle, then use a small rolling pin to roll out thinly. Try to make the edges thinner than the center, so that when you press the edges together the dough is not too thick.
Fill each dough round with about 1 tablespoon of the filling. Pull the edges up to meet each other. Starting from the center working outward, form pleats along one side and press to stick to the back side of the circle. With freshly made wrappers it may not be necessary to brush a small amount of water on the dough to make it stick (like you would with commercially prepared wrappers). Press firmly around the outer edge of the dumpling to ensure that it is sealed very well. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling, until used up. Finished dumplings should be cooked as soon as possible. They may be frozen prior to cooking if desired.
To cook the dumplings, there are two options for this dough type. In Shanghai it is very traditional to boil the dumplings, or they can also be cooked up like potstickers using a combination of steaming and frying.
To boil the dumplings, bring a large pot 1/2 full of water to a boil over medium to high heat. Drop in the dumplings in batches taking care not to add to many at once, so that they do not stick to each other. After the dumplings go in, bring the water back to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as it begins to boil, add a full cup of cold water. Bring to a boil once more, repeating the process with the cold water. Once the dumplings come to a boil for a 3rd time, they will be fully cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve as soon as possible.
To fry the dumplings, heat a large pan with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the dumplings in the pan, pressing down slightly so that the bottoms form a firm foundation and the dumplings stay upright. Pour about 1/4 cup of water into the pan, then cover and steam for 3-4 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until the water has evaporated. Check the bottom of the dumplings. When they have become golden brown, they are finished and ready to serve.
Serve the boiled dumplings or potstickers with small dipping bowls of sauce made with equal amounts of soy sauce and Chinese vinegar, sprinkled with some green onions (to taste). If desired, sesame oil is a welcome addition.
I hope that you will enjoy making these delicious potstickers. While labor intensive, they are definitely a fun group activity. We could all use a little more togetherness in a world full of divisiveness. One of my favorite things about food is that it can bring together people from just about any group. Want to make a friend? Ask them about their favorite dish or what they loved that their family used to cook. In this spirit, let’s get together more and enjoy what we can share with one another.
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year? Leave a comment in the box below to share how you celebrate- I would love to hear! 新年快乐 Xin Nian Kuaile! Happy New Year!
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