Growing up in a Chinese-American household, we always did things a little differently. At our annual summer barbecue’s, instead of the usual burgers and hotdogs, we would have grilled fish balls and chicken wings in hoisin sauce (Chinese barbecue sauce). Instead of a rack of ribs we would have a row of homemade dumplings. I can still remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and grandmother and helping wrap the dumplings one by one before all the guests arrived.
So when I had a craving for some homemade dumplings last week, the first thing I did was ask my mom for the “recipe” she used to make the dumplings from my youth. People always ask me why I don’t get more Chinese recipes from my mom and why I go looking for recipes online. It is because whenever I ask my mom or grandmother for a family recipe it goes something like this – you add a few large “handfuls” of cabbage, a “package” of pork, a “few” mushrooms, and “splash” of soy sauce. There is no such thing as a measuring spoon in the mind of a traditional Chinese home cook.
However, after much debate I have created a recipe that is a mix of my own cooking sensibilities and our family recipe. It uses ground pork, shiitake mushrooms, chives, and cabbage. These dumplings also freeze great. Just spread them on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 4-5 hours. Once they are thoroughly frozen, transfer to a plastic bag or plastic container and store for up to three months.
For the Pan-Fried Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Lou & Esi Original, adapted from my mom (a true home cook who doesn’t believe in ‘useless’ utensils such as measuring cups and spoons)
Makes 50-75 dumplings
For the filling:
- 3 cups napa cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/2 cup Chinese chives, finely chopped
- 1 cup Shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing rice wine (or any rice wine)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- fresh black pepper to taste (or white pepper powder)
For the slurry:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water
For the wrappers:
- 1 package round dumpling wrappers
For the dipping sauce:
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar (white rice vinegar also works well)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (more or less depending on your preference for heat)
Prepare the filling by combining all the filling ingredients in a bowl. Mix the filling until everything comes together. Make sure you squeeze out any excess water from the cabbage and mushrooms to prevent the filling from being too wet.
Prepare the slurry by combining the cornstarch and water. Set up your wrapping station by lining up your bowl of slurry, your dumpling wrappers, and your filling in a row. Lay a wet paper towel over your dumpling wrappers when not using to prevent the wrappers from drying out.
Take one dumpling wrapper and using your finger, paint the edges of the dumpling wrapper with the slurry. Spoon a large tablespoon of the filling onto the middle of the wrapper. Now this is the harder part, folding the dumpling wrappers. Fold the dumpling wrapper in half and starting from the right side, slowly pinch the wrapper together.
Place the dumplings on a lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with the rest of the wrappers. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other or they will stick.
At this point, either freeze the dumplings or cook immediately. To cook, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Slide the dumplings in a few at a time and cook until they float to the top, about 7-8 minutes.
Remove with slotted spoon and serve with the dipping sauce.
If cooking frozen dumplings: Heat up a frying pan with 2 tablespoons oil until hot. Place the frozen dumplings directly on the pan (making sure they don’t touch each other) and fry for a minute until the bottom is slightly browned. Place 1 cup of water into the frying pan, cover the pan, and steam until the water is mostly evaporated (~15 minutes). Uncover the pan and continue to pan fry the dumplings on all sides until the dumplings are dry and crispy.