Chinese Dumplings

It took me two years to post this. I've been doing lots of experimentation, playing around with the cooking method like boiling, steaming and pan-frying them. Then I try out different wrapping style and whether it affect the taste. I also tried different methods of boiling them.

Yes, you heard me right! There's a few techniques in boiling too! Some do the triple boil method (Those who make dumplings often enough would know what I'm talking about and no, I'm not mad!), rolling boil for a couple of minutes, and bring to boil and simmer for 10 mins or so.

Same goes to steaming and pan-frying. Pan-fry it and you call it potstickers. It's really because it sticks to the pan and you pour in water to deglaze them. You get a nice crunchy and crispy bottom with soft, not rubbery skin. They are so good eaten plain!

Other issues include wrapping techniques. I find that boiling them is fast and easy however sometimes when your wrapping skills is not good enough, the filling burst out and floats in the water because you've entrapped air pockets in the dumplings when wrapping. In the end, what you get is a sort of diluted taste dumpling with skin all over!

Steaming however can help prevent this. Simply line a steaming tray with a few napa leaves and place the dumplings all over it and steam it until its cooked. Juice retain itself well and flavour comes through better too.

As for wrapping, I really find the purse shape dumplings taste better. Not being psychological, but because they hold their shape better and even if you wrap them lousily, it will not burst open and ooze out meat juice. Because purse shape dumplings have a sort of flat surface bottom it can sit on but the crescent shape on is sort of like invertebrate. It has to be lying in either sides and there's a chance where juice might leak out.

As for recipes, I've tried more than 7 different recipes in 2 years and it's really the matter of not substituting for any of the ingredients and the wrapping method and cooking method all helps in making flavours come through.

If I am pressed on time, I did rather not make dumplings because they are easy but takes time to wrap and to master. And you really gotta make sure you squeeze every last bit of water out from the napa. Heavily salt them and no, your dumpling filling will not be too salty in the end, I assure you! Salt helps draw water out from napa cabbage that is known to be high in water content. And chopping everything as finely as possible gives you a better texture. However, some people like my dad likes them not chopped too fine. He likes to bite into things and be able to tell what's in them and it makes him feel smarter so cook according to your liking and people that you are serving it to.

For potstickers, some people like to precooked the filling first because they'll cook faster and it does taste better. However, I've tried just pan-frying them with raw meat filling and they are delicious too. Your choice.

Finally, did I mention that these dumplings are freezable and they keep well for long. Just flash freeze them in a single layer and then you can place all of them in a large ziploc bag. And when you're in for a quick fix, drop a couple of them in your instant noodle soup and you have the most delicious supper in no time!

For this, I am going to describe all methods that I know and feel free to pick whichever way you like. This recipe is one that I have gathered from many sources and come up with one I feel suit our tastebud the most. If you are not comfortable, always do a taste test first. Simply boil a little of the meat filling and taste it. If it's to your liking, you can start wrapping. If you think it needed a little bit more salt, add it. Be flexible and cook according to your liking. And most importantly, enjoy and have fun!

250g pork mince*
160g Napa cabbage
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese Shaoxing Wine
1 tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp cornflour
A generous handful of fresh chives (try getting your hands on garlic chives if possible!)

*For the pork mince, I would say you buy preminced pork because they usually give use the cheapest cut of the meat to make pork mince for you and we all know cheapest cut means more fat and fat is what makes it delicious. You can go all vegan and healthy 364 days of the year but let this one day when you eat these be a true indulgence and remembrance!

30-40 dumpling skins (Sometimes called gyoza skin)
1 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup cold water

Start off by drawing water out from the cabbage. Finely minced the Napa and place them in a large bowl. Add a generous amount of salt and tossed them a bit. Let them sit for 10-15mins.

While that is happening, combine everything else in a large bowl and mixed them up really well. When the cabbage is ready, place a large muslin cloth over a colander and pour in the cabbage. Squeeze out as much water as possible from the cabbage and combine the cabbage into the pork mince mixture. If the mixture is not binding well, feel free to add a little more cornflour to bind it.

Have ready one or two large baking sheets, lined with parchment and lightly dusted with plain flour.

Wrapping time. Remove about five or so of the dumpling skin onto your work table and use the muslin cloth which is damp now to wrap the remaining dumpling skins. It works a little like Phyllo here, the dumpling skin will dry out if exposed to air too long. Wrap it in two ways:

Typical Crescent Shape

Place a scant tablespoon of filling at the centre of each dumpling skin and dab your finger into the cornflour mixture. Gently glaze one half of the circle of skin and fold the skin over to make a crescent shape. Press from the centre outwards to make sure you don't get air pockets in the dumplings. Seal them up well and place them on the prepared sheets. Do not stack them up!

Beautiful Purse-Looking Shape

Place a scant tablespoon of filling at the centre of each dumpling skin and dab your finger into the cornflour mixture. Gently glaze one half of the circle of ski. Now, bring both opposite sides of the skin together. Hold them at the centre an pinch to seal the point.

With your left hand still holding the sealed centre point, use your right hand to gently fold and pleat one half of the skin towards the other unpleated side; sort of like fluting it. Pinch tight. Do 3 to 4 pleats from centre to right and repeat for the other side. This video here is close to what I described but the difference is I only pleat one half of the dumpling skin but what the video did was to form crescent and pleat like I've described. No, don't try what she did, it doesn't work with store bought skin and you must be crazy if you think I'll make my own dumpling skins. Well, I do have crazy moments but I find buying them is a lot more convenient.

I hope my picture helps. All pleats should be pointing towards the centre. I didn't pleat well because store bought skins are thick and because I totally stuff the dumpling, I think it's rather obvious from the picture.

Cooking time. Feel free to do one of the below:

Patented 3-times-boiling method

In a large pot, heat the water until boiling. Add half the dumplings, stirring once in a while to prevent them from sticking together, and when water reach boiling point again, add a cup of cold water and bring to boil again. When the dumplings are boiling for the third time, fish them out. This method, it does taste better to me and I never get burst dumplings and floating skins when I do this.

Boil-like-ravioli method

In a large pot, heat the water until boiling and add in half the dumplings, stirring once in a while to prevent them from sticking together. When it comes to boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for approximately 8 to 10 mins, covered or uncovered is fine. Fish them out and serve.

Steaming method

Line a steamer tray with a few Napa leaves and place the dumplings on the leaves. Steam them on high heat, covered of course for 7-8 mins. Serve straight.

Potstickers (Pan-frying method)

Wrap the dumplings into purse-like shape. Heat up a nonstick pan with some oil and coat the base well. When oil is hot but not smoky, turn down the heat to medium low and working quickly, place as many dumplings as you can fit into the non-stick pan. Make sure there is no room for them to move around and that they all fit snuggly. Sear the bottom until it's brown and crisp. When that is achieved, add in enough water so that water comes up to approximately 1 cm of the dumpling height. Bring to boil and lower the heat to simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and let it cook it for 5 mins or so. Reason is because you want your filling to be cook and you also want all the water to evaporate away. Uncover and turn up the heat to medium high. When all the water evaporated and you can totally see that your pan is dry, run a spatula around the sides and the bottom of the dumplings to loosen it from the pan. Turn off the heat and place a large plate over the pan. With one quick motion, turn the pan upside down with one hand holding the plate. Serve the potstickers upside down to reveal it's beautiful crisp and seared bottom.

Serve this with a traditional ginger and vingar soy dip or just garlic oil and chili dip. I hope this write up would be helpful to some of you. Have fun and good night! It's so late now!

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