Back when I met Will, his diet consisted mainly of chicken tenders and fries. "Ah," I thought, "A true American diet. He will eat anything that can be found in a shopping mall food court." And then I discovered I was wrong. Oh sure, the pizza, the burgers, the Auntie Anne's Pretzels, all that he was good with. But horror of horrors, Will wouldn't eat Chinese food.
Lo Mein, Egg Rolls, Wonton Soup, none of these were on the menu for Will. And for years we went on this way, me picking up General Tao's Chicken, Will recoiling and heading for the box of cereal. About two years ago, mostly in order to keep himself from starving to death when I insisted on dining at an Asian restaurant, Will ate a dumpling. And then another one. And suddenly my leftover takeout was disappearing from the fridge. If you are in NY, and you want some truly banging dumplings (great drunk food btw) there's a place in the East Village called Dumpling Man that is now one of Will's favorite dinner spots.
In Jackson Heights however, there is no good Chinese food. We've canvased a few places, but the dumplings always turn out horrifically doughy. If I wanted in house dumplings, I was going to have to make my own. The recipe I found by digging though my old Gourmet magazines, and it came with a kick ass dipping sauce. Seriously, even if you have a great source of dumplings and don't intend to make your own, make the sauce. It's worth it.
Lantern Dumpling Sauce
- 1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
- 1/3 Cup Water
- 1/2 Tablespoon Shaoxing Wine vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon Asian Sesame Oil
- 1 Garlic Clove, smashed
- 1 Dried Red Chile
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
Stir all ingredients together and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to two days.
Once your sauce is getting all marinadey, its time to set up your dumpling stuffing station.
Adapted from Gourmet magazine
- 1/2 pound fatty ground pork
- 1/2 Tablespoon Shaoxing Wine
- 1/4 teaspoon Asian Sesame Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese chile-garlic sauce (look for the one with the rooster on it)-
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 Tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 25-30 Frozen Dumpling Wrappers
Defrost and separate wrappers. Do not try to pry them apart if they are still a little frozen, you get a lot of torn wrappers that way. Be patient, they'll come apart.
Combine all ingredients (save for the chives and wrappers) in a medium bowl, then stir in the chives. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice to keep chilled while forming your dumplings. If you don't feel like the elaborate set up, just stick the bowl in the fridge and bring the filling out to your work station about 3/4 of a cup at a time.
Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and moisten area around filling with water. Fold in half to from a crescent.
From here you have 3 options. You can leave all smooth and folded. You can crimp up the edge to be all pretty. Or you can moisten the two corners, pull them together, and press to make them stick together. Because I'm currently obsessed with the neat little CHOW Tips videos, let them show you! (I'm not getting paid for this I swear, I just really love these videos)
I decided to test 3 methods of cooking.
Poaching: drop dumplings into a bot of gently simmering water until pork is just cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and serve with sauce.
Steaming: Oil the bottom of a colander and bring about 2 inches of water to a boil so that the bottom of the colander sits above the water. Arrange dumplings about 1/2 an inch apart and steam over medium heat, covered, until the wrapper becomes translucent and filling is just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Remove and serve with sauce.
Seared: This is where you get "Pot Stickers" cause the little buggers like to stick to your pan. I'll be honest, I kinda failed at this. This was the hardest method I attempted. I tried, I'd get a little bit of browning, a little bit of crispness, but it never came out quite right. Dumpling Man's website has some tips on this method, if you try and have more luck, tell me about it in the comments.
I liked my dumplings a lot. I found them a bit dry, I just used the standard grocery store ground pork, I probably should have found something with more fat. If you have a butcher from whom you can ask about fat content of their blend, that's probably best but you may just have to grind your own. The NY Times has a great article giving advice on how to do this in a food processor. We enjoyed our homemade Chinese food with a screening of Mulan. Because few things are as authentically Chinese as the stylings of Donnie Osmond.