In that I am an avid dumpling maker (so that I can afford to be a voracious dumpling eater), I tend to go through quite a bit of filling for the little buggers. Much like the hot dog/hot dog bun conundrum (12 hot dogs vs. 8 buns), I often find myself with more filling than I have wrappers for. What to do?!?
Given that the filling does not tend to keep very well (overnight at best, and never defrosted from frozen), I have found a quick and easy solution with wontons. The wrappers are easy to come by in the produce section of the market (usually with the tofu) and can be transformed into the loveliest of soups. In Chinese, wonton means “swallowing a cloud” – easily the perfect descriptor for a soup that is both complex and delicate at the same time.
So what’s the game plan, you may ask? Very simple. Bolster your leftover filling with some fresh shrimp, sesame oil and cornstarch. Fill the wonton wrappers and twist into little satchels until you are out of filling. Freeze the wrappers (as these guys do keep well) and make a pot of wonton soup. If you have leftover wontons beyond the soup, either pan fry and serve with soy dipping sauce or deep fry and serve with duck sauce. Last but not least, relish in your delicious frugality and trenchant wit. Probably the most important step of all.
Thrifty Shrimp Wontons
1 lb. of shrimp, peeled and chopped
about 1 c. of leftover dumpling filling
1 tbs. of corn starch
2 tbs. of sesame oil
1 package of wonton skins
1 quart of chicken stock
1 tbs. of soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled
In a standing mixer or with a spoon, mix the leftover dumpling filling with the shrimp, corn starch and sesame oil. Fill the wonton wrappers with a teaspoon each of filling. Wet the edges with a bit of water and twist the corners together to form a little “money bag”. Dip the bottom of the money bag into a small amount of flour and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until you have used up all of your filling. Set aside
Pour the chicken stock, soy and ginger into a pot and bring to a boil. Add as many wontons as you’d like to eat (no more than 10 per quart of stock) and cook for 4-5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a handful of scallions. Dig in.
Variations on the Soup
As a means of extending the majesty, feel free to use any of these add-ins:
- handful of baby spinach
- handful of bean sprouts
- thinly sliced Chinese BBQ pork
- crispy fried onions or shallots
- thinly sliced chicken breast
- lo mein, mai fun or udon noodles
- peeled shrimp
I have to apologize to my husband right off the bat, but I’ve been having a (not so secret) love affair with dumplings for pretty much my whole life. When people tell me about how much they themselves love dumplings, in the back of my head, I’m always saying “Nope. Nowhere close to as much as me.” I occasionally even question whether I love them more than Andrea Nguyen who wrote the beloved book “Asian Dumplings“…maybe we’re tied. From my early memories of eating fat, pleated jiao zi at the Hsian Foong in Arlington, VA, to scraping together pennies to buy the potstickers (like crack) from Ollie’s Noodle Shop while in college, to polishing off plate after plate of crystal chive and shrimp dumplings at dim sum, I look upon the modest dumpling as the penultimate perfect food.
When I asked my friend Tim Ma, chef and owner of Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, VA, to do an interview for the site, I was most looking forward to him proffering a mind-blowingly good recipe to share. When I saw his potsticker recipe, I straight up cheesed – what luck to have access to a recipe that was passed on to him through his family. And I’d get to eat the results. The beauty of this recipe is in the simplicity – garlic chives and sesame oil do all of the heavy lifting seasoning the ground pork. And as Tim explains, the wrappers are an art form – practicing rolling the wrappers yourself is well worth the effort and far better than you could get from most restaurants. This is the kind of cooking that is rooted in love – you make these dumplings for people that you care for, and hopefully have them join you in the effort. Dumpling party, anyone? I promise I’ll consider sharing one or two.
Learn more about Chef Tim and check out another one of his fabulous recipes by clicking here.
Pan Fried Pork and Chive Potstickers
1 c. of cold water
3 c. of all purpose flour
2 lbs. of lean ground pork
1 bunch of chinese chives, chopped
1 tsp. of dried shrimp (optional) soaked in 2 tsp. of water or shaoxing wine
4 tsp. of salt (or 3 1/2 tsp. if you use the dried shrimp)
3 tbs. of sesame oil
corn starch (if needed)
Begin by making the dough. Combine water and flour and mix until all flour is just incorporated. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Next, make the filling. Mix the pork, chives, dried shrimp, salt and sesame oil.
You’re now ready to start making your wrappers and filling the dumplings. Roll out the dough into long sushi roll and cut into small round 1 inch pieces. Use a small rolling pin to flatten it into a wrapper about 3 inches wide. You are looking for wrappers about the same thickness as gyoza, so when rolling out your own dough, it’s pretty thin. It’s really an art – you make small balls about 1-inch in diameter, then smash down with your hand. Roll the pin around the edges until you get your thin wrapper, leaving it a little thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges.
Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface on the kitchen counter. Place each wrapper on the floured surface with the floured side facing up. Put 1 heaping tsp of the filling in the center of each wrapper. Wet your finger in the cup of water and wet all around the outer edge of the wrappers. Close it by folding it up and pressing two wetted sides together. Set it down on a flat surface and make the bottom flat.
After about 20 to 30 finished dumplings, you can set a non-stick flat bottom skillet on the stove. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in it and place the dumplings all around the skillet. Add two cups of cold water, and then put a lid on the skillet. Turn the temperature to high.
When the water is dry, turn the fire to low. Take out the dumplings when they are golden brown and crispy at the bottom.
Serve with dipping sauce (recipe below). If you like things hot, you can make a spicier dipping sauce out of hot chili paste, soy sauce and sesame oil.
Potsticker Dipping Sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. of soy sauce
1/3 c. of rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tbs. of sugar
1/2 tbs. of sesame oil
Mix all ingredients well and serve. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator if you don’t use it all.
I came across this recipe the other day in finding a cheaper way to nosh on the addictive Crystal Shrimp Dumplings from China Fun here in the city – the darn things are so delicious that when I eat them piping hot, the filling all falls out for lack of letting them sit and chill. Waiting is overrated.
This recipe can be found on the lovely blog Rasa Malaysia – she has you make the dough in her recipe, but in the version pictured below I used the pre-made Yasoya Wonton Wrappers (available in most grocery stores where they keep the tofu). Not 100% identical, but a heck of a lot easier, especially if you can’t get your hands on wheat and tapioca starch. If you have an aversion to triangle-shaped har gow, use a round cookie cutter to make perfect wrappers of your own. Fry the extra bits that you cut off and use as crispy noodles in some wonton or hot and sour soup. Done and done. Truthfully, though, the star of this recipe is the filling, particularly the luscious quality of the shrimp and bamboo shoots, so don’t go crazy with the wrappers.
The pork and chive dumplings you get in Chinatown here in NYC usually involve the thin skinned wrappers and garlic chives, a flat, milder flavored variety. Because these can be hard to come by, I’ve modified this recipe to use a small amount of regular chives, some cilantro and a couple bunches of scallions. I use a traditional jiao zi wrapper made out of a cold water dough, making these heartier and more robust that the usual pork and chive dumplings.
For something a little lighter, use thinner pre-made dumpling wrappers (found in Asian Supermarkets) and cook like traditional potstickers. Basically, you steam the dumplings in a covered skillet with 1/4 to a 1/2 c. of water and a few drops of oil until the water evaporates and the bottoms crisp up. Hence the name “potstickers” – I know, sometimes the world just makes a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it? For a great potsticker recipe from start to finish, check out my good friend Chef Tim Ma’s Pan Fried Pork and Chive Potstickers.
The best part of this recipe, and all homemade dumplings, is that the quality is much higher than what you’ll find at restaurants and dumpling joints. You control exactly what is added to the little delicacies, and you still end up keeping the price down. Fresh ingredients at a low price is a hard thing to come by these days, so definitely celebrate a little when you tuck into a plate of these bad boys.
Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Jiao Zi
4 c. of flour
1 1/4 c. of ice water
1/2 tsp. of salt
3/4 lbs. of ground pork
2-3 raw shrimp, minced (optional)
1/4 c. of water
1/2 in. of ginger, minced
1 tsp. of cornstarch
2 tbs. of soy sauce
2 tsp. of sherry
2 tsp. of sesame oil
1/2 tsp. of salt
4 tsp. of sugar
3 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro (10-15 stems with leaves), minced
1 small bunch of chives (the plastic pack from the store is fine)
Start by making the dough for the wrappers. Add the four cups of flour to a bowl along with the salt. Slowly stream in water, stirring as you go and making sure not to put any actual ice cubes in the mixture. Add only enough water to get the dough to hold together – if it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour. Knead dough until silky and elastic (about 5-8 minutes) and then wrap with plastic and let chill in the fridge.
Mix all ingredients (except for scallions, cilantro, chives and water) until smooth and a little stringy, making sure to stir all in the same direction. Next, stream your water into the mixture in small amounts, stirring in between each addition. Lastly, add the scallions, cilantro and chives and stir again. Set aside.
Break out your dough and pinch a chunk off the size of a clementine. Run the dough through a pasta roller or roll out by hand to about 1/4 in. thick. Cut out 3-4 in. circles using a cookie cutter or the mouth of a large cup (I use one of my hubby’s beer steins). Place a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the wrapper and pleat the edges to close. Set aside on a floured cookie sheet. Continue to fill the dumplings until you run out of filling or dough – whichever comes first.
Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. When the water is ready, plunk in about 8-12 dumplings and watch the water go from a boil to a simmer. Let the water come back to a boil and then pour in a rough cup and a half of cold water. Let the water come to a boil again and then add cold water a second time. Let the pot come to a boil one last time and then remove dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon. Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the dumplings that you could possibly eat in one sitting.
Serve with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce.
For a different taste, pick up the thin, round pre-made dumpling wrappers from your local asian market. You can even use the wonton wrappers found in the deli aisle of the regular grocery store, and cut the squares into rounds with a ring mold. Fill your dumplings and set aside on a floured cookie sheet. Add 3-4 tbs. of cooking oil to a skillet and turn on high. As the pan warms up, place the dumplings, seam side up, in the pan one next to another. When the pan is super hot and the oil starts to sizzle (a few minutes), add about 1/2 c. of water to your pan. Immediately cover to trap the whaft of steam that arises when you add the water to the hot pan. Cook until the water has evaporated and the bottoms of the dumplings crisp up.
Pleat Me and Treat Me
Ah, kanom jeeb – you have officially earned platinum status in the dumpling ranks. You are a mere morsel of goodness, a two-bite treasure, and I thank you for gracing me with your presence. Jam from the wonderful food blog “Thai Cooking with Jam” explains that your name is derived from the thai words for “pleated snack”, but I posit that you legally change your name to the thai words for “pleated awesomeness”. Awesomeness indeed.
I know that you are a textural delight with your essential combination of crunchy carrots and water chestnuts carefully blended with tender shrimp and pork. You are also a luxurious treat with your delicate topper of lump crab. And yet, you don’t mind dressing yourself down on certain days with a crispy shallot or two. You are similiar to your Chinese brother, shu mai, and yet your combo of sweet and savory taste worlds away at times. Continue reading Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)
It’s SO Easy Being Green
My family hails from Brazil, a country that prizes meat consumption in all its glory. And yet, my sister has been a vegetarian (and a vegan when her multiple sclerosis doesn’t give her grief about it) since she was in fourth grade. Always loving to cook for friends and family (regardless of dietary restrictions), I quickly altered my repertoire to include non-meat alternatives for all of my tried and true recipes. As time went by, I came across more and more good friends looking for some sweet, non-meat dining (Drew and Briana, especially). I never felt put out making “two dinners” – it just meant more time in the kitchen.
Two little tips to keep in mind – the green food coloring, aside from aesthetic purposes, is an awesome way to quickly separate between the veggie and meat dumplings on a platter. No meat eaten by mistake. I use green food coloring for the dye action, but if you are using frozen spinach at any time, you can save the water from it to dye your dumpling skins. The other tip is that although I list a slew of veggies for these guys, do experiment and use whatever you’d like. Try spinach instead of the cress, water chestnuts instead of the bamboo shoots – be creative and use what’s fresh and available.Vegetarian, vegan or no, give these dumplings a whirl. If you make them at the same time as the chicken or pork versions, not only will you have a veritable dim sum spread in front of you, you’ll be winning the favor of your non-meat eating friends. And friends are a good thing, I hear 😉 Continue reading Vegan Potstickers
For When You Want No Pork On Your Fork. I Mean Chopsticks
You know I love you guys. And I have no problem with your dietary restrictions – I still want to fill your belly. Which is why, if you are not fine with swine, I am posting this lovely recipe for chicken dumplings.
I call for no less than 4 types of pepper in these, so skip the chili oil and Sriracha (thai chili sauce) if you want it less piquant. If you aren’t down with meat of any kind, check out this recipe for Vegan Dumplings. Continue reading Spicy Chicken Potstickers
Easy Peasy Pinching and Pleating
- When adding the water to the meat mixture, stream it in slowly and in batches. Stir for two to three minutes after each addition to make the filling just right.
- For the easiest mixing of dough, use a bread machine on the dough cycle. It does all the heavy work in mixing and kneading the dough, and you can just sit back and relax.
Shaoyu (Dr. Shaoyu Chi) is a fellow tech-wiz and uber-savvy instructional designer – I mentioned to her that I get a kick out of the fact that even in the kitchen we’re applying modern innovation to age-old processes. We can revamp a dim sum recipe as easily as we can convert a synchronous, face-to-face course into an engaging online or hybrid option.
Hey, you’ve got to be a three-for in this tough economy – why not web designer, instructional designer and culinary tinkerer?
Thanks again, Shaoyu!
Kitty Yum Yum’s Dumpling Emporium
I admit that I’m a bit of a fussy pants about collecting the best version of a recipe possible, to the point of years of trial and error to get things just right. I believe in a specific set of credos of the kitchen, and won’t accept any substitutions for particular dishes that my palette is craving a certain way. Was it Anthony Bourdain that said that people that refuse to peel garlic (by way of pre-chopped jarred garlic) don’t deserve to eat it? I watch Sandra Lee cook out of seasoning packets and processed piles of ingredients, and it reminds me of why I enjoy spending a little extra time in the kitchen getting things just right. It’s so worth it when the stars align and the recipe you’re working from just works. Continue reading Jiao Zi (Boiled Pork Dumplings)