Friday, February 19, 2010

Beijing-Style Dumplings


What possessed me to make dumplings from scratch last night?  My back ached and there was flour and pork everywhere.  In the end, though, they were delicious.  But if you make these with storebought wrappers, I won't judge.  I won't tell anyone.  Heck, if you waited to go out for dim sum to eat these, I'd understand.  But if you undertake this mission, recruit some helping hands and think of the light at the end of the tunnel.

So unlike the dumplings of Southern China that I'm used to, with their meat and seafood fillings, the shui jiao of the North tend to have vegetables.  This recipe from the LA Times uses a pork and cabbage filling.  I think a pork-and-shrimp filling will always be my favorite, but this was a welcome change of pace.  The pork and cabbage are tender, the rice wine lends a hint of sweetness, and the ginger a little heat.  It's my new recipe for the New Year.

The pork with soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, and sesame oil.

I thought it strange when the writer spoke of emulsification in regards to pork, but it does develop an oily consistency after the water is beat in.

It helps if you shred the cabbage even thinner than I did here, for packing into the dumplings later.

Got to love the ingredient list for dumpling dough: flour and water.

Stir until you get raggedy bits.

The dough will feel like it has hard bits, but after a few minutes of kneading it becomes cohesive and soft.
Cutting the pieces with a bench knife.
You should know two things.  First, my dumpling "circles" suck.  Second, I have no pleating skills.

See?  At least with the storebought wrappers I can manage a half-moon.  Can't eat them all at once?  Freeze them right on the sheet, then bag them in a Ziploc.  You can cook them without defrosting.

The boiling directions looked cumbersome, so I broke out some bamboo steamers.  You'll need to line them with a cabbage leaf, wax paper, or parchment to keep the dough from sticking to the bamboo.  Place your dumplings on top, stack your steamers, and cover.

Add a bit of water and bring to a simmer.  Check after a few minutes to make sure it hasn't boiled dry.  These steamers are great -- you can also steam fish fillets and vegetables like potatoes and broccoli in them.  I also like the idea of gently steaming dumplings instead of washing the flavor out of them by boiling.

Beijing-Style Pork and Cabbage Dumpling Filling
From The Los Angeles Times

Total time: 20 minutes
Servings: Makes enough filling for 3 dozen dumplings, about 6 servings

1½ cups finely chopped nappa cabbage
¼ tsp salt
2 tbs soy sauce, plus extra for the dipping sauce
1 tbs Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
½ tsp sugar
6 ounces fatty ground pork
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
¼ cup water or cold broth
2 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger

In a small bowl, toss cabbage and salt together. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to draw water out of the cabbage.

Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, rice wine and sugar in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Vigorously stir in the pork and sesame oil, using a fork or chopsticks and stirring in one direction until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Gradually add the water in 3 stages, vigorously stirring in the same direction until each addition is emulsified.

Squeeze the excess water from the cabbage with your hands and transfer to a plate, reserving the water. Add the cabbage water to pork mixture, vigorously stirring in the same direction; the mixture will be very soft. Stir in the drained cabbage and ginger. Use the filling immediately, or wrap and chill until ready to use, no more than 1 day.
Boiled Dumplings
From The Los Angeles Times

Total time: About 1 hour (10 minutes to make the dough, and 50 to assemble and cook the dumplings)
Makes: 3 dozen dumplings, about 6 servings

1½ cups (7.75 ounces) bread flour
About ½ cup cold water
About 1½ cups dumpling filling
Chinese black vinegar (such as Shanxi or Chinkiang), as desired, for the dipping sauce
Soy sauce, as desired, for the dipping sauce
Crushed dried hot red pepper, as desired, for the dipping sauce

Put flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in one-half cup cold water. Slowly stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon, moving from the center toward the rim, to work in all the flour. (Add more water by the teaspoon until most of flour is incorporated.) Keep stirring as a ragged, soft mass forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough together into a ball. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth, fingertip-soft and slightly elastic. (You shouldn't need any additional flour on the work surface if the dough was properly made. Keep kneading, and after the first minute or two, the dough shouldn't stick to your fingers. If it does, work in a sprinkling of flour.) Press your finger into the dough; the dough should spring back, with a faint indentation remaining.

Transfer dough to a plastic bag and seal and let stand at least 10 minutes, covered.

If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate the dough until needed up to 1 day.

To wrap the dumplings, divide the dough in half, keeping half wrapped. Transfer the remaining half to a work surface and gently roll into a 12-inch log about three-fourths inch in diameter.

Cut the log crosswise into 18 (two-thirds inch) pieces, rolling the log gently between cuts to keep it round. Generously dust the dough with flour to keep the pieces separate, and gently flatten each round piece into a circle using the palm of your hand.

Roll each piece into a 2½-inch round wrapper (this is easiest using an Asian dowel-style rolling pin), rolling the outer one-half inch edge very thin, like a tortilla (the center of the circle -- a little more than 1 inch -- will remain slightly thicker). Use 1 hand to roll the dowel back and forth while the other hand rotates the circle, like a steering wheel, to form the wrapper. Repeat with the remaining pieces, loosely covering each wrapper to keep it from drying out and dusting the wrappers to keep them separated. Repeat with the remaining dough half.

Form the dumplings: Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Use chopsticks, a dinner knife or spoon to center about 2 teaspoons of filling on the wrapper, pressing down gently and keeping one-half to three-fourths inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly.

Use the thumb of the hand cradling the dough to push down the filling while the fingers of the other hand pull up the edges and pinch the edges together. (Pinch the center of the dumpling first to seal, then pinch the remaining edges to enclose the filling completely.)

Position the dumpling so the sealed edge rests against the palm and along your first finger. Cup your other hand around the dumpling hand and bring your thumbs together and press firmly to seal the edge.

Place the dumpling, pinched side up, on a floured baking sheet or tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling, covering and refrigerating them as they are made.
Boil the dumplings: Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil over high heat. Add half of the dumplings and slowly stir, using the back of a ladle or large spoon to gently release any dumplings stuck to the bottom of the pot. When the water comes to a full boil, add a cup of tepid water to the pot, gently stir and return to a boil. Repeat twice. The dumplings are ready when they have boiled 3 times and float in the water.

Carefully lift the dumplings out with a slotted spoon into shallow bowls. Boil the remaining dumplings in a second batch. Save the dumpling water to serve with the end of the meal.

Serve the dumplings with black vinegar seasoned as desired with soy sauce and hot red pepper. Serve each guest a bowl of the cooking water at the end of the meal.


  1. When are you going to do bao? That stuff's awesome.

  2. That's Joe's department, but I always think it's so much work for something they make well just down the street.


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