Chinese Dumpling Recipe
Alright. I’ve had nothing to eat all day save coffee. Around 3:30 or so, I hit the shower and run to the store to pick up supplies. To make Chinese Dumplings, you don’t really need all that much – a few things here and there. As someone who’s not a good cook, I think this recipe is fairly easy to reproduce.
Disclaimer: By reading further, you free me from any responsibility should damage occur to your kitchen or your immediate person. By reading this sentence, out loud or silently, you waive any rights to file any charges whatsoever against me, in perpetuity until the end of the universe as we currently know it.
My mom used to make Chinese Dumplings, typically on special occasions. The prep work isn’t all that bad – it’s the actual making of each individual dumpling that consumes the most time. It’s slow work, and it only increases the more people you need to feed. Approximate 20 dumplings per person, and multiply that by however many folks you have to feed. When we would eat them at home, the dumplings were the entire meal – so it doesn’t seem weird to me. Because my mom only made them on special occasions (and I helped out some, when I got older), they always seemed like a treat. Sometime while I was in Columbus, about three or four years ago, I asked her for the recipe over the phone.
Like me, I’m sure you’re going to have all sorts of quizzical looks and questions. My mother’s recipe is full of approximations. Not once do I measure anything in the traditional sense. So – if not a very good cook, relax. You’ll be winging this, just like I did.
Cooking time varies, but I’d slot out at least an hour and a half. More, if you’re making food for two plus persons. Of course, it’s always more fun if you have several people in the kitchen. Getting the ingredients ready is fairly straightforward – so if you have a ton of folks to help pitch in to make the dumplings, all the better.
- One pound ground pork
- One package breakfast sausage
- Chinese Cabbage (Bok Choy)
- Vegetable Oil
- Soy sauce
- Green onions
- Large pot
- Rolling pin
- 2 Large bowls
- Small bowl
Snapshot of all the essential ingredients. You won’t be using all of it.
Whenever I’m planing on extensive cooking, I tend to put in Lyle Lovett – the first album from Step Inside This House.
Whenever you’ve only had coffee all day, and you’re about to make a big ass meal… it’s always a good idea to have beer. Always.
And so we begin. Take some flour and put it into one of the large bowls. Get two glasses of water, one cold and one hot. Microwave one of the glasses for about 4 minutes – that should do the trick. Mix equal parts of the water with the flour and mix.
My first reply to my mom (and keep in mind I’m trying to write all this down as she tells me, over the phone) is what? How much? I need measurements! How much flour? How much water?
She doesn’t specify, and only tells me to eyeball it. So – mix away. Keep in mind that you’re looking to get a fairly solid consistency (so if you have batter, add more flour). If it’s too dry, add some more hot and cold water; if it’s too wet and sticky, add more flour.
Knead with your hands until you get a pizza-dough-like consistency. More likely than not, you’ll find that the more you knead, the stickier you discover the dough to be. Keep the flour bag nearby, as you’ll probably be adding more as you knead.
Once you get the dough to look like above, set it aside for a while. Let it sit while we prepare the rest.
Get about three or four leaves from the Bok Choy. Rinse thoroughly and cut them up until fairly small pieces. Keep in mind that they’re going inside a dumpling, and cut to that size. Once you’re done chopping, put them in a strainer.
Sprinkle a little salt over them (my mother claimed that this helped to "dry them out." Set this aside momentarily, as we prepare the meat.
Time to mix everything together!
Take about 1/2 to 3/4 of the ground pork and place it in one of the large bowls. Cut the breakfast sausage in half, and add that to the bowl as well. Cut up one or two green onions and add. Add the Bok Choy. Sprinkle a dash of salt and a splash of soy sauce over everything.
Shove your hand in and mix. Be sure to mix things thoroughly, as the sausage tends to clump together. At this point, assess whether the meat to Bok Choy ratio is to your liking. Add more if you wish.
Originally, I was taught to roll out a log shape, and cut up small sections. Then, use a rolling pin to flatten each piece out into a disc. I found that it’s easier if you first take a piece of dough between both hands, and roll it into a little ball. Then, use the rolling pin to flatten it out.
Roughly something like this size. Notice it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle.
Add a dollop of the meat to the center. A typical mistake is to add too much meat – which I’ve done several times. You don’t want the dumpling to come apart and break while it’s cooking. After a few tries, you’ll get a feel for how much should go inside.
To seal it off, fold the dough around the meat. I typically fold from the bottom up and pinch off the top. There’s really no art (at least when I’m doing it) to this – just pinch the dough between your fingers until it fuses more or less. Then, work your way from the center out to each side, sealing off the dough.
Honestly – it’s all about pinching. Don’t worry too much about making it look pretty. Just make sure it’s sealed off well.
When you get done pinching the dumpling shut, it should look something like this.
Notice that my dumplings aren’t all that pretty.
Alright chuckle-monkeys. I can hear you laughing. No need to take that above sentence out of context, you degenerate freaks.
Repeat the above steps over and over and over and over and over and over again. Yikes! It’s a painful process, but well worth it for the final result. The above batch is roughly 30 dumplings, with some meat leftover.
As always, if you’ve got more hands to help out – wonderful. In this case, the more cooks the better.
When you’re done making all the dumplings, put the big pot on the stove and fill it about halfway with water. Leave plenty of room, as we’re going to b
e adding lots of water throughout the cooking process. High heat, and bring the water to a healthy boil.
While the water is heating up, let’s turn to the sauce.
Ah – my favorite part of the whole process.
Take your small bowl and place a good amount of soy sauce in it. Chop up one green onion and a few slivers of ginger. Make sure the ginger is thinly sliced. Add the green onions and ginger to the soy sauce. Stir.
Take some vegetable oil and heat it in a pan. High heat. Right around when it starts to bubble slightly, take it off. Pour the oil into the soy sauce mixture.
I LOVE THIS SMELL. The oil will make the soy sauce mixture sizzle and pop. It’ll cook it slightly, I believe. Mmmmm Mmmmmm. Let this sit to the side a while, as we turn our attention back to the big pot of boiling water.
Add the first batch of dumplings. Don’t overcrowd, as you don’t want them to stick to each other as they’re cooking. But you can fit a fair amount in. The water will die down a bit, once you place the dumplings inside.
To avoid getting scalded, don’t just drop them in like bombs. Grab one end, and lower it until a part of the dumpling touches the water. Then release.
Ok. This is another part where my mother was vague about the whole process. When I asked her how long I should cook them, she gave me these instructions:
Place the dumplings into the pot. When the water starts to bubble up again, pour in some cold water until the bubbling stops. Repeat this process a total of three times. Bubbling water; add water. Bubbling water; add water. Bubbling water; add water. When it’s bubbling again for the fourth time, take the dumplings out.
I scoffed at first, surprised that the Chinese civilization continued for as long as it has without exact measurements of any kind, apparently. But after making dumplings myself… this process works.
Continue the cooking process for your remaining dumplings. The one downside of this whole thing is that the dumplings get cold rather quickly.
Place the finished dumplings on a platter, and dig in. They tend to stick together when cooling, so you might want to space them out a bit more than I did. But, if you’re dealing with a ton of dumplings for a lot of people, this is sorta unavoidable.
Bowls are best for dumplings. Add the soy sauce, and go to town. Yum!
This is one thing that I still do, out of habit. When my family used to have dumplings, we’d always end the meal by having a bit of broth. What we did was we took the bowls we were eating out of (which had a ton of soy sauce from all the dumplings), and added some of the water we used to cook the dumplings.
Mixed together, it makes for a brownish broth. This may not be for everyone, I understand – but it’s been ingrained in my head as part of the whole experience.
I would suggest some nice tea to go along with the dumplings, if you’re so inclined.