Making dumplings from scratch can seem intimidatingly labor-intensive and difficult, but homemade dumplings taste so much better than frozen storebought ones that it's totally worth the effort. I recommend making dumplings in large batches and freezing them for later use. Depending on how quickly one works, it typically takes a few hours to make a large batch of dumplings - a perfect activity for a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Step 1: Ingredients
1 bunch of Chinese chives**
1 bunch of green onions
1 pieces of ginger
1 egg (optional)
some uncooked shrimp (optional)
3 packs of dumpling wrappers***
some all-purpose flour
chili paste (optional)
*The preferred of pork for this recipe is pork butt, which has a higher fat content than most other cuts of pork. Leaner cuts can be substituted, but the filling will taste more dry.
**Also known as garlic chives or Chinese leeks. Chinese chives are in season during the summer. The Chinese chives can be substituted with an equivalent amount of cabbage. Jicamas can also be added to the filling for more crunch.
***Dumpling wrappers should be relatively easy to find in most Asian supermarkets. Make sure to buy the ROUND dumpling wrappers, not the SQAURE won ton wrappers.
Step 2: Prepare the Shrimp (optional)
Peel and de-vein some raw shrimp. If the shrimps are large, cut them into approximately 1 cm long pieces. Lightly salt the shrimp and blend the salt and shrimp together, gently squeezing the shrimp. This will force excess moisture out of the shrimp so it tastes more crunchy. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Put salted shrimp in a bowl and refigerate while preparing the rest of the fillings.
Step 3: Prepare the Filling
Mince the chives into small pieces (approximately 2-3mm long)*. Mince one stalk of green onions and one small piece of ginger as finely as possible.
Put the minced chives, green onions and ginger together with the ground pork in a large bowl. Add some soy sauce and sesame oil (approximately 1-2 tablespoons of each). Add one raw whole egg.** Blend all of the ingredients together by hand (don't be shy about squishing all the ingredients together!). If the filling seems too dry, add some of the green onion/ginger water. The filling should have a somewhat paste-like texture, with all of the ingredients sticking together.
*To substitute cabbage for Chinese chives, mince the cabbage (1/2 a head) into small pieces (again approximately 2-3mm large). Cabbage contains excess moisture that must be expelled so the filling is not waterlogged. To do this, salt the chopped cabbage lightly, then blend the salt and cabbage together, squeezing the cabbage firmly. The cabbage pieces should become limp, and there should be water coming out of the cabbage. Drain the cabbage well. Finely minced jicama can also be added to give the filling a more crunchy texture.
**The egg helps to make the texture of the filling more smooth and coherent. The addition of the egg can be skipped if desired.
Step 4: Wrap the Dumplings
The dumpling wrapper* is not perfectly round. It's actually an oval. Align the dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand so that its longer axis is parallel to your fingers. Scoop up a heaping teaspoon of the filling, and put it in the center of the dumpling. The filling should be ovoid in shape, with its longer axis perpendicular to the longer axis of the dumpling. This will make it much easier to put as much filling into each dumpling as possible and still seal the wrapper with ease.
Dip one finger in the bowl of water, then moisten the perimeter of the dumpling wrapper. You don't need to go around the entire perimeter, it's sufficient to just moisten the top half of the wrapper. Pinch the dumpling together at the top with thumb and forefinger. Then cradle one side of the dumpling against the space between your thumb and the side of your palm and pinch the thumb and palm together to close the side of the dumpling. Repeat for the other side with your other hand.
This wrapping technique takes a bit of pratice, but when properly done, the dumpling will take on a curved "kimbo" shape. The dumpling will be pleated and bulging on the back side. Dumplings wrapped in this manner stand up by themselves easily.
If you are putting shrimp in your dumplings, put in slightly less filling. Put a piece of shrimp on top of the filling, then wrap the dumpling.
*For those of you who also want to make the wrapper from scratch, it's quite easy. Just mix all-purpose flour and cold water together until it is workable without being too sticky. Put the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the dough rest. Make the wrappers by pinching off little balls (approximately 1" in diameter) and flattening it with a rolling pin. Wrap as with the pre-made wrappers, except you don't have to moisten the wrapper as much to seal it. Take care wrapping, because fresh wrappers are very stretchy. Homemade wrappers will tend to have a more chewy texture than storebought ones.
Step 5: Cook the Dumplings
Add enough water into the pan to submerge all of the dumplings halfway. Turn the heat to high, and cover the pan with a glass lid. Make sure you don't lift the lids too often after this point, because the dumplings are partially cooked by the steam trapped under the lid. Cook the dumplings until all of the water appears to have evaporated. Your potstickers are ready!
Alternate cooking method (boiling): Boil water in a large pot. Put the dumplings into the boiling water, ensuring that all of the dumplings are completely covered by water. Raw dumplings will tend to sink to the bottom. When the water is boiling again AND the dumplings are floating, add in one cup of cold water. Wait until the water boils again, then add in another cup of cold water. When the water is boiling again, the dumplings have been sufficiently cooked and are read to eat. This method works for both frozen and fresh dumplings.
Storage method: Any dumplings that are not immediately cooked can be frozen. To freeze dumplings, put the plates and pans containing the dumpling into the freezer. Wait until the dumplings are completely hard, then you can re-package the dumplings in freezer bags. If you try to bag the dumplings too early, while they are still soft, they will stick to each other. Once the dumplings are frozen, cook them using the boiling method only. Frozen dumplings won' t taste as good fried.
Step 6: Make the Dipping Sauce