“Dumplings, in whatever form and from whatever culture, are so universally loved,” Hsiao-Ching Chou says. “It’s something that unites us all. It’s so accessible. You can add fancy ingredients to it but it’s still a dumpling.”
Dumplings are central to Chinese New Year celebrations, Chou says. The dish is auspicious because of its shape, which represents roundness and family. Whether steamed, boiled or pan-fried as potstickers, “they’re on every table.”
Chou offers extensive dumpling-making and -cooking guidance in Chinese Soul Food. The beauty of the format is that you can fill them with anything you like, and choose from various cooking methods: “It all depends on what you crave.”
These classic pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings join several other filling options in the book: spinach, egg and shiitake; pork, shrimp and Chinese chives; beef with Chinese mustard greens; and basil, chicken and shrimp.
Buy the best quality pork you can find, Chou recommends (she favours Kurobuta, the Japanese name for the rare Berkshire breed). Or, if you have a meat grinder, grind pork butt for a well-flavoured filling.
PORK AND CHINESE CABBAGE DUMPLINGS
Makes: about 45 to 50 dumplings
For the filling:1 batch Dumpling Dough (recipe follows)
Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce (recipe follows), for serving
1 lb (450 g) ground pork
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) loosely packed, finely chopped Chinese (a.k.a. napa) cabbage
2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) minced ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) white pepper powder
Make the dough according to the recipe. While the dough is resting, make the Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce (recipe follows) and set aside.
To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine the pork, cabbage, soy sauce, onions, ginger, oil, and pepper, and mix well. Set the filling aside. (The filling can be made up to a day ahead.)
Fill the wrappers with the prepared filling.
Boil or panfry the dumplings (see note), and serve with the dipping sauce.
Note: To boil dumplings: In a large soup pot or stockpot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Carefully add about half of the prepared dumplings, or only as many as your pot can accommodate without crowding. Return to a boil and then cook the dumplings for 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. If you are cooking frozen dumplings, boil them for 1 to 2 minutes more. The dumplings are done when they puff up. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a large slotted spoon or handled strainer, transfer the dumplings to a serving plate.
To panfry dumplings: Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add enough vegetable oil to generously coat the entire surface of the pan and create a slight pool of oil (about 1/8 inch deep). Carefully arrange the dumplings in a single layer in the skillet, flat side down. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cover immediately. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the bottoms of the dumplings have reached a golden brown.
Makes: about 1 lb (450 g) dough (for about 48 dumplings)
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) unbleached all-purpose our, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp (190 mL) warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F/41 to 43 degrees C)
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add all of the water. Using a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon, a pair of chopsticks, or your fingers, stir the water and our together until a shaggy ball of dough starts to form. Now, use your hands to start kneading the dough and incorporating any remaining flour. The dough should feel slightly tacky but not damp. It should not stick to your fingers.
Dust your work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about 2 minutes. It should feel smooth. Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for a minimum of 20 minutes. (While it doesn’t need much longer than that, it won’t hurt the dough if it happens to rest longer.)
Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer to form the dough. Add the flour to the bowl of the stand mixer, and add the water gradually while running the dough hook at medium-low speed. Once the dough comes together, knead for about 2 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. (This dough will hold for several hours at room temperature. It will get stickier, so you will have to knead in about 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 mL) of flour to refresh it. It’s best to make this dough the same day you want to use it.)
Once rested, divide the dough in half. On a surface lightly dusted with our, roll each half into a rope that’s about 2 cm (3/4 inch) in diameter and about 46 cm (18 inches) in length. Using a knife or a bench scraper, cut each rope into pieces that are about 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick. Each piece should weigh about 9 or 10 grams (see note).
Roll each piece of dough into a small ball and then flatten it between your palms to create a disc that resembles a wafer cookie. Press your thumb gently into the dough to create a small indentation. Position your rolling pin between you and the base of the wafer of dough. Dust lightly with our as needed. Roll the pin forward across the dough and back. You do not need to lift the rolling pin. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the forward-and- back rolling. Turn the dough 90 degrees again and repeat the rolling. This forms the beginnings of a circle.
Repeat this for the second revolution, but, for subsequent turns, roll the pin only halfway up. For the third revolution, roll the pin only a third of the way up. The idea is to leave the centre of the circle just slightly thicker than the outer edges. The wrapper should end up being a circle about 8 cm (3 1/4 inches) in diameter. Don’t worry if the circle isn’t perfect; it only needs to be roundish. If it looks like an oval, then round it out. If it’s lopsided beyond repair, then bunch up the dough into a ball and start again. Unless you have an assembly line of friends or family helping you, roll out about six wrappers at a time. If you roll out too many, they start to stick to each other and the edges will dry out, which makes it harder to seal.
Note: These dimensions are meant as a guideline. You could make these larger, if you’d like. You would end up with fewer dumplings and each would require more filling. The key is to keep the size consistent, so the dumplings cook consistently. I wouldn’t make these smaller, however, because it makes it more challenging to fold the dumplings, especially if you have big hands or you are a beginner.
SOY-GINGER DIPPING SAUCE
Makes: about 1/2 cup (125 mL)
1/3 cup (75 mL) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) rice vinegar
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp (5 mL) minced fresh ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) chili sauce (optional)
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, onions, garlic, cilantro, ginger and chili sauce. Set aside on the counter for at least 30 minutes, if possible, to let the flavours meld together. The longer the mixture rests, the more intense the flavour becomes. You can store the dipping sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.