Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wrapping up another year (dumpling recipe)

These dumplings tasted delicious in spite of improper folding.

Gong xi fa cai, xin nian kuai le, or happy new year, everyone!
The eve of the Chinese New Year found the family and me snowbound. The only thing I forgot to pick up before the storm was a package of dumplings, or jiao zi, for our dinner to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit.

That's almost like forgetting the stuffing or dressing to go with the Thanksgiving turkey. Heck, it may even be like forgetting the turkey in my home.

The only thing to do was make them from scratch, including the wrappers, or skins, for each dumpling. I've seen dumplings made, but when I was growing up my only contribution was eating the finished result. More recently, when I did make them occasionally, I usually bought a package of already-made wrappers. Oh, well. There's a first time for everything. I wasn't about to give up on my favorite traditional food for such an important holiday.

The filling was easy. In the refrigerator I had half a pound of ground pork that I originally planned to use in chili or empanadas. Pork was just what I needed for the dumplings, which I planned to pan fry until the bottoms were golden and crisp. When prepared that way, they are guo tie, or pot stickers. You can also steam them on a cabbage leaf or boil them. I like the crunchy bottom, so I fry them.

To go with the pork, I had some leeks (use garlic chives if you find them), napa cabbage and ginger. In the pantry were about 10 pounds of all-purpose flour, way more than enough to make the dough. The Year of the Tiger may have lashed us with a blizzard on its way out, but even if the weather outside was frightful, the food was so delightful.

Pork Dumpling Recipe (Guo Tie)
Makes 20 to 24

1 cup chopped napa cabbage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup chopped leek
2 Tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger root
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine
1 Tablespoon corn starch

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water


1. For filling, sprinkle a little salt over the chopped cabbage and let sit about 15 minutes. Squeeze cabbage in your fist over a cup or bowl to extract excess liquid. Discard the liquid. Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

2. For wrappers, put flour in a large mixing bowl, mix water in and knead to get a moist but not sticky dough. I had to use 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 Tablespoons water. The amount you need to get a dough that will hold together may vary, depending on the type of flour you use. King Arthur all-purpose, flour, for example, has a higher protein content than something like White Lily brand. Lower protein flours may not soak up as much water.

3. Cut the dough in 2 or 3 strips, roll into logs, about an inch and a half thick, and slice into 1/2-inch thick "coins." On a floured surface, roll out the pieces into circles about 3 inches in diameter. Lightly dust with flour. (My first several circles stuck together because I just piled them on a plate. I was able to separate the ones I later floured.) Place wrappers on a plate and cover with a damp (not wet) kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.

4. To fill the dumplings, put about 1 Tablespoon of filling in center of wrapper, fold wrapper into half circle, pressing center of outer edges together. Pleat one side, pressing the pleated edge to the unpleated edge as you go. (The pleated edge should be on the outside curve of the dumpling. You might want to look at someone else's until I can make another batch and take more pictures. I pleated this batch backward. Hey, cut me some slack. I shoveled snow for two hours.) Lightly flour bottom of dumpling and place on plate. Cover with damp towel to prevent drying. Repeat with rest of wrappers. This recipe should make roughly 20 dumplings. Dumplings can be frozen at this point, and cooked later.

5. To pan fry dumplings, heat 2 Tablespoons peanut oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange dumplings bottom down, pleats up, in pan. Allow to sizzle half a minute to a minute, then add 1/2 cup water to the pan and cover immediately. When water has evaporated, add another 1/2 cup water. When water has evaporated a second time, continue cooking dumplings until the bottoms are golden (their shape is supposed to suggest that of gold ingots as a symbol of prosperity for the coming year). Place a large plate upside down over dumplings, and holding plate in place, invert the pan so that the dumplings are bottoms up on the plate. (Please do this with care to avoid unfortunate incidents such as burning yourself or dropping a heavy skillet on your foot. Oh, and try not to drop dumplings on the floor.)

Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

Sauce that I use:

Dipping Sauce Recipe

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons black vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
green portion of one scallion, chopped (or some chopped fresh cilantro)
1/2 teaspoon sriracha (pepper sauce) or chili flakes, optional

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix.

You may also like: Mom, Mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival

1 comment:

Leema Thomas said...

yummy....what a sweet way to help herald the Year of the Rabbit...Happy New Year!!

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