A perpetual favorite for snacks or meals, dumplings are fun to make at home and easily adaptable to suit your cravings. A favorite combination for the filling is pork and mushrooms, with the richness of the pork complementing the earthiness of the mushrooms. But feel free to vary the ingredients. Pork and cabbage is a Beijing classic, while lamb with leeks is popular in western China. If you love seafood, try shrimp and crab. For vegetarians, spinach with mushrooms and scallions makes an incredibly tasty combination (see Vegetable Dumpling and Wonton Filling). As for dipping sauces, you can use soy sauce or Sriracha sauce alone, or make the Soy and Vinegar Dipping Sauce. Once you have the basics down, there is plenty of room to experiment. Any dumplings you don’t cook right away can be frozen for a quick meal or snack later on. They can also be panfried or boiled straight out of the freezer; just add 1 minute to the boiling time or steaming part of the panfrying. Follow the step-by-step photographs on this page for the secrets to perfect pleating.
- Yield: 10 Servings
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 0.125 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 package dumpling wrappers (about 50)
- Peanut or vegetable oil for panfrying (about 1 tablespoon per dozen)
- Make the filling: Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Discard the stems and finely chop the mushroom caps.
- In a large bowl, mix together the mushrooms, pork, scallions, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Keep the wrappers covered with a slightly damp towel until ready to use, to prevent them from drying out. Fill a ramekin or small bowl with water and have it next to you; this will be for sealing the dumplings. Take a wrapper and place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle. Be careful not to put in too much or else it will leak out during the folding process.
- Dip your finger in the water and moisten the wrapper edges all around. Take the dumpling in your hand and fold the wrapper in half without sealing it. With your right thumb and index finger, make a pleat in the center of the top layer of the wrapper, leaving the bottom layer unpleated (photo 1).
- Make 2 more identical pleats in the same direction, until you end up with 3 pleats on the right side (photo 2). With your left thumb and index finger, make 2 more pleats on the left side (photo 3). Press all the pleats to seal. The finished wrapped dumpling should resemble a crescent.
- Lay the finished dumpling on a plate. Keep the dumplings covered with a slightly damp towel while you repeat the process with the remaining dumplings. (This recipe includes instructions for panfrying, but if you would rather boil your dumplings, omit steps 7 through 9 and just cook them in a pot of boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes.)
- For panfrying, make sure to use a large flat-bottomed skillet or a wok with a wide flat surface area and have a lid ready. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Working in batches, line the dumplings in the pan, smooth side down. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the smooth side starts to brown. Lower the heat to medium. Carefully add about ½ cup water to the pan, and immediately