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All The Dumplings

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I love dumplings. Like, a lot. And since moving to Napa, my dumpling intake has severely suffered. Last month Canuck and I drove an hour in the rain to Dublin to get dim sum from Koi Palace, and that tied me over for a bit. But then something amazing happened last week: Canuck taught me how to make my own dumplings! And they were much easier to than I realized, so I will definitely be repeating the process. Granted, he spent half a day collecting all the ingredients from various Asian markets in a 30 mile radius (because, of course, there aren’t any in Napa), which is more time than it takes to drive to Dublin, stuff your face with dim sum, and drive back. But it just somehow tastes a little better when you make them with your own hands.

Reid's collection of dumpling wrappers

Canuck’s collection of dumpling wrappers

We made three different kinds: Gyoza (Japanese pork and shrimp pot stickers), Siu Mai (open-faced pork and mushroom dumplings) and shrimp and chive dumplings. Canuck selected the recipes for Gyoza and Siu Mai from the Asian Dumplings cookbook and the shrimp and chive dumplings from Lucky Peach presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. I recommend purchasing at least one of these books if you’re into Asian cooking, but I’ve outlined the recipes below for your convenience.

Gyoza (makes 32 dumplings)

  • 2 cups lightly packed, finely chopped napa cabbage, cut from whole leaves
  • ½ tsp plus ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 TB chopped scallions
  • 6 oz ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • ⅓ lb medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and chopped
  • scant ¼ tsp sugar
  • generous ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ TB Japanese soy sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 TB sake
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 32 round pot sticker wrappers

To make the filling, in a large bowl, toss the cabbage with ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer, then rinse with water and drain again. To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or put into a cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel and wrung out the moisture over the sink. You should have about ½ cup firmly packed cabbage. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, scallions, pork and shrimp. In a separate small bowl combine the sugar, pepper, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil, then add to the pork and shrimp mixture. Stir and lightly mash the ingredients so that they start coming together. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Gyoza filling

Gyoza filling

Siu Mai (makes 30 dumplings)

  • ⅔ lb ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, stemmed and chopped making ½ cup (we actually used porcini)
  • generous ¼ cup finely diced water chestnuts (fresh preferred)
  • 3 TB finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB light soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 30 square dumpling wrappers
  • 30 peas, for garnish

To make the filling, combine the pork, mushrooms, water chestnuts and scallions in a mixing bowl. Use a fork or spatula to stir and lightly mash the ingredients together so they begin to blend. Put the salt, sugar, white pepper, cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and egg white into a small bowl and stir to combine well. Pour over the meat mixture and stir, fold and mash everything together until thoroughly combined. Cover the filling with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Shrimp and Chive Dumplings (makes 40 dumplings)

  • 1 lb shelled, deveined shrimp, minced
  • 1 cup very finely chopped chives
  • 1 TB fresh minced ginger
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice wine
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 40 round dumpling wrappers

To make the filling, combine shrimp, chives, ginger, egg, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, white pepper and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Traditional Dipping Sauce (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 3 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB water
  • couple drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp gochujang (optional if you want it spicy)

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to eat the dumplings.

Now that all the fillings are made, you are ready to wrap the dumplings! It certainly helps to have two sets of hands during this part, so invite someone you really like over to help. Start with whichever filling you made first; in our case, the Gyoza. Set out out two large cutting boards, two small dishes of water, two tablespoons, the filling, pot sticker wrappers and a wax paper lined baking tray. Lay a wrapper on the cutting board and line a wetted finger around the edge. Put a small spoonful of the filling into the center of the wrapper, then fold the wrapper in half to make a moon shape. Make sure to seal the edges together so that there is no air coming through. (If you can’t close it properly, there is probably too much filling and you should throw out the wrapper and start over.) Lay the dumpling on the baking tray and repeat the process until all the filling is gone. Pull the amount of dumplings you want to eat (3-4 per person) and freeze the rest for about an hour. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags and they won’t stick together. The shrimp and chive filling can be wrapped the same way, but use dumpling wrappers which are slightly thicker.

IMG_5488

IMG_5491

As for the Siu Mai, practice makes perfect! These dumplings are open faced and require a bit more finessing. It took me a few – okay, ten – rounds to get it right, but the “wrong” ones weren’t so terrible. In any case, place a square wrapper in palm of your hand and add a spoonful of the filling into the center. Lightly wet each corner with a dab of water and pinch it into itself, pushing the filling into the center and creating a sort of bundle. Then wrap each pinched corner over the side of the wrapper, overlapping onto each other, until you form a box. Top with a pea and set onto the wax paper lined baking tray. Pull out however many you want to eat, and freeze the rest for about an hour before placing into freezer bags.

IMG_5490

The “wrong” way

The "right" way

The “right” way

Now, you can finally cook the dumplings! For the Siu Mai, place a fitted steaming basket over a pot of boiling water. Line the bottom of the steaming basket with large leaves of napa cabbage, then place 6 dumplings on top of the cabbage (this is so they don’t stick to the bottom; you can discard the cabbage when you’re done). Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Use tongs to remove and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

IMG_5493

The other two types of dumplings can be cooked in the same method (but separately): heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, carefully place dumplings in the pan flat side down and fry one side. Once it’s browned, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover immediately, steaming for about 2 minutes or until the water evaporates. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

IMG_5494

All in all, the prep took about 3 hours and we didn’t eat until 10pm but it was so worth it. The dumplings turned out deliciously (with the Siu Mai being both of our favorites) and were actually pretty fun to make. I paired the dumplings with Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier, a crisp wine with citrus and melon notes that pairs perfectly with Asian flavors.

The best part of the whole experience is that I came away with several bags of frozen dumplings to savor at a later date! And now that I have mastered the art of dumpling wrapping, maybe I’m even ready to make Har Gow – with Canuck’s guidance, of course.

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