Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge: Potstickers!



I get asked a lot why I don't make more Chinese food. Well, I learned to cook after I left home, and there were far more resources on Western cooking. But one thing I did help make as a kid were won tons, so this potsticker challenge seemed very doable. But unlike some other bloggers, this isn't really representative of cuisine in Hainan (the island in China's south), Malaysia, or Singapore -- the places of my grandparents' and parents' birth. It's just what my family used to fill won tons and then tweaked by me. It's delicious, is what it is!




I've never made wrappers from scratch before, but I've got to thank Jen of use real butter for making it mandatory for the challenge! Once I got the hang of making them, it was relatively easy. I tried my hand at pretty pleats, but they were ugly so I proceeded with a simple fold-over. So the result was plain, but our cleared plates were testament to the tastiness!



My Filling:

It was funny measuring ingredients for this recipe. If your mom is like my mom, she measures and times nothing because she just has the instinct. That's led to some unsuccessful re-creations of her recipes (is "a little" a pinch or a teaspoon, ma?), but I always managed with this!
½ lb ground pork
½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp ginger, grated on the microplane or minced
5 scallions, chopped
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs soy sauce
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbs cornstarch

Pulse everything in the food processor until you get chunky bits. Or finely chop the larger ingredients and stir everything together. That ice-cream-like-scoop you use for cookie dough is useful here, too. Thanks to Lisa-Is-Bossy for the suggestion on using a pestle as a mini rolling pin! I was confused a bit at first on how thick and long to roll the dough logs, but if you have a scale, each dough chunk and rolled-out wrapper should average out to about 25 grams.



These get fried a bit so you get crunchy undersides, and then they sizzle in steam so they cook the rest of the way through:



The Challenge: Chinese dumplings/potstickers (aka gyoza in Japanese)

Reveal Date: June 14th! Good luck, Daring Cooks - woohoo!
It's a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, and cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures and is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants - especially dim sum. The recipe I provide is based on my family recipe. There is a lot of wiggle room and I encourage you to explore. If you've made them before - great! Now try something different!

The process goes a little like this:


You can (and should) reference instructional photos and discussion on my blog post here.



Wrappers: Well yes, you could purchase pre-made dumpling wrappers at the store (NO WONTON WRAPPERS - they have egg), but they are inferior compared to homemade. The whole point of this challenge is to make the dumpling wrappers by hand. So here is the one requirement: the dumpling wrappers must be made by hand. It isn't all that hard, it just takes a little time and practice. People usually get the hang of it after making about a dozen. **NOTE: I have a special recipe for gluten-free dumpling wrappers at the bottom of the post. They are another type of traditional dumpling and they are pretty awesome (although more finicky). Really delicious too, so you may want to have a looksee even if you aren't gluten-free. [EDIT 5/18/09:] I see that some have chosen to make the wrappers by hand. I don't recommend this method because the wrappers will be too thick and probably yield far fewer dumplings for the dough recipe. The point of rolling the dough is for uniformity of wrapper and to achieve a thickness that is otherwise difficult to attain by hand. Also, rolling is much faster than hand shaping. We're aiming for a delicate skin that does not dominate the dumpling.

Fillings: the beauty of the Chinese dumpling/potsticker is that the filling is very versatile. That's why there are so many different kinds of dumplings when you go to dim sum. The two most common are pork and shrimp. You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken...) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives - oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to "stick" to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. I think if I were to make vegetarian dumplings, I would sauté the cabbage and mash up the tofu for a better cohesiveness. It's up to you how you want to fill your dumplings and I say - run with it! Just keep it cohesive and no big chunks of hard ingredients (they poke through the wrapper dough = disaster). I realize it may be tempting to dump all of the vegetables into a food processor and give it a whir, but I caution against it. You don't want a slurry, you want a mince. Practice your knife skills and be careful.

Special Equipment: A rolling pin - preferably not tapered. (see blog pictures for the type I use).

Time: Prep for the filling takes me 30 minutes - longer if peeling and de-veining shrimp. It will depend on your proficiency with a good sharp knife. Rolling and wrapping several dozen dumplings takes me 1 hour by myself. My parents can crank through it in 30 minutes when one person is rolling wrappers and the other is wrapping dumplings. Might be fun to get a second person to help! Cooking: I have to cook mine in batches. When steaming, I can cook a dozen at a time in about 10 minutes. Potstickers: 15 minutes per 2 dozen determined by the size of your pan. Boiling - 6 minutes per dozen or so depending on size of pot. My own personal preference is for potstickers - mmmmm! But they are ALL good. Here is the recipe:

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

OR

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm waterflour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

[EDIT: 5/26/09] There have been two complaints posted about a dry dough and I realize that this rests in the problem of measuring flour which has a different density and hence weight for 2 cups depending on how you scoop it. That is why I also list the weight: 250g. Flour tends to settle over time, so when I scoop it out, I shake several cups' worth back into the container before taking a final scoop of soft, fluffy, flour and I get 250g for 2 cups. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary. Use your judgment - this is what being a Daring Cook is about. We are trying to cultivate a sense of intuition so that recipes are general guidelines from which you can expand your own style.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.
To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

6 comments:

  1. Oh hey! Nice job on the challenge and I love that you used the pestle to roll out your dough per Lisa's instructions :) too cute! Excellent action shot of the steaming water - that can get a little dicey ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love that last pix two plates of yummminesss. And using a melon ballers is a nice way of getting amounts of filling> The fish dipping bowl is very beautiful. Cheers from Audax

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would love to try your filling, as it sounds delicious! Your dumplings turned out lovely. Very nicely done!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love the fish bowl! How fun is that? Yummy looking dumplings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. love that fish bowl! so adorable. Great job on the challenge. Your dumplings look fantastic

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your potstickers look great Shirley. I specially love your rolling pin. It is really cute. It is marble, isn't it? I have added you to my blogroll. Great blog you have here.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting! Feel free to leave some comment love.

Please post any questions in the comments, but if you need to e-mail me I can be reached at secondbreakfastblog at gmail dot com.