My mom is a Chinese dumpling wrapping queen. She can mix up a batch of filling ingredients and fold them into perfect, little half-moon dumplings faster than the time it takes me to set the table. Mom will usually sit at the breakfast table facing the television and while watching her favorite Chinese soap opera, she’ll be pleating those suckers without once looking down. The problem is that during emotional moments of the dramatic soap, her dumplings would look, well, sad. So, the lesson is, watch happy shows, get happy, fat dumplings!
There’s a brand new book out written by my friend Andrea Nguyen and it’s called Asian Dumplings. With full color photos, step-by-step illustrations on how to wrap over 75 Asian dumplings from samosas to spring rolls, it’s definitely a book I’d recommend. I’ve adapted her Chinese water dumpling recipe for you to try. The folding technique is simple enough for you master while watching a light-hearted, happy show on TV.
How to Fold Chinese Dumplings
Step 1: Place about a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger in the cornstarch slurry and paint the top half’s edge. If you put too much slurry on the wrapper, it will get soggy and make it difficult to fold. So just the top half– along the edge.
Step 2: Bring the bottom edge up to meet the top.
Step 3: Pinch the center.
Step 4: Now pinch the rest of the edges together – use the meaty part of your thumb to really pinch and seal good, while pushing any extra air out of the dumpling.
I go over the edge, pinching one more time, to ensure there are no holes. If you have a hole, dumpling filling will leak out.
There should be no air bubbles in the Chinese dumplings – the middle is all filling. Air bubbles will cause the dumpling to rupture when you boil them.
Step 5: Lay them flat out on a plate or baking sheet, keep them covered with a barely damp towel or plastic wrap. Try to give each dumpling space – so that they don’t stick to each other. Cook the Chinese Dumplings (see recipe below) or cover and refrigerate if you are cooking same-day. Freeze as-is on the plate/baking sheet if saving for another day. Once frozen, you can gather them up and put them in a freezer bag.
Chinese Dumplings: Boiled Pork and Cabbage Dumplings
adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
Salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being too soggy!
Makes 50 dumplings
12 ounces napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped (or regular cabbage)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use microplane grater)
1/4 cup minced Chinese chives or green onions (white and green parts)
2/3 pound ground pork
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 package frozen round dumpling wrappers (gyoza/potsticker wrappers), defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes
for the slurry: 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1/2 cup water
1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let cabbage sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, return the food processor bowl to the stand and add the ginger, chives, pork, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Pulse 4 times to mix the ingredients well. Set aside.
2. Use your hands to grab a handful of the cabbage and squeeze and discard the excess moisture out into the sink. You can also spoon all of the cabbage onto a cheesecloth and then squeeze all the water out. Place the dry cabbage back into the large bowl and add the pork mixture. Fold the cabbage into the pork mixture.
3. Mix together the slurry. Take one dumpling wrapper, spoon scant 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip one finger into the slurry and “paint” the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Bring up the bottom side of the wrapper, fold up and press to shape into a half-moon shape, encasing all of the filling. Place on baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with rest of dumplings. Make sure that the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.
4 When all dumplings assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. When boiling, and gently slide in 1/3 of the dumplings. When water returns to a boil, turn heat to a simmer and gently cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with hot chili sauce.